Monte’s 12th annual march to end hunger raises $507,000
NORTHAMPTON — The fight against hunger once again took center stage in Massachusetts, as current and former congressmen, a U.S. senator and candidates for lieutenant governor were among those who joined Monte Belmonte and his signature shopping cart on the 12th annual Monte’s March.
“The people who march are incredible,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester.
For this year’s two-day, 43-mile march to raise money for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts Belmonte did a first: He marched in a dress. The dress, which he wore for the first day of marching, from Springfield to Northampton, was inspired by the one Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore to the Met Gala earlier this year, and paired a shawl with the words “Tax The Rich” with “End Hunger Now” printed on the dress.
On his second day of marching, Belmonte dressed up as Uncle Sam.
“Uncle Sam has been used as a piece of propaganda for war for so long I thought I’d use him as a piece of propaganda for peace,” he said.
Belmonte was joined by dozens upon dozens of people on Tuesday, snaking in a long line down the road on his route from Northampton to Greenfield.
Last year’s march raised $614,000, a record amount for the fundraiser, but Belmonte said he didn’t care about whether or not the march exceeded that mark this year.
“I’m always flabbergasted by the outpouring of generosity,” Belmonte said. “If we can break half a million dollars I think that’s a pretty big deal.”
By the end of the night, $507,045 had been raised for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, smashing the $500,000 goal.
Belmonte also noted that people can donate on the march’s website, at www.foodbankwma.org, year-round.
Walking the walk
McGovern said this is at least his ninth Monte’s March, and he has marched the entire route each of the times he’s participated.
“Somebody’s gotta walk the walk,” he said, although he did note that his wife has expressed concern about him doing it as he’s aged.
The congressman also said that it’s important to be involved with things that have a direct impact on the community.
“They’re going to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars,” McGovern said.
He also noted his effort to get President Joe Biden to call a White House conference on food, nutrition, hunger, and health.
“We can’t rely on Monte to do this for the next hundred years,” he said.
Speaking later, on the second day of the march, McGovern was in good spirits.
“My legs ache but my heart is full,” he said.
He mentioned some of the people who have come out to support the marchers, including schoolchildren in Amherst and members of the Tibetan community who provided marchers with hot tea. McGovern also praised the community’s generosity.
“At the end of the day Monte will have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Food Bank,” he said. “That means that a lot of our neighbors here will not go hungry. I’m really grateful for that.”
Another person joining Belmonte on his march was Philip Korman, executive director of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture.
“Farms are donating 500,000 pounds of produce to the Food Bank, and that doesn’t even count all the food pantry donations,” Korman said.
Korman said that the weather on Tuesday was incredible, and that food donations from farms were less this year because of the wet summer, which resulted in smaller harvests.
“I just so hope that the community remembers who fed them through the pandemic, so that we have farms here,” he said.
Additionally, he said that the Food Bank and CISA work closely together on many issues.
State Reps. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, and Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, also marched. It was Sabadosa’s third time marching and Blais’ ninth. Blais started marching when she was a staffer in McGovern’s office.
“The food bank needs our support,” Blais said. “Our constituents are served every single day by them.”
Sabadosa, meanwhile, observed how important the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts is to the area’s food security infrastructure, noting that it provides food to the Northampton Survival Center, working with Grow Food Northampton.
“They really are a critical cog,” she said.
Elizabeth Dunaway, who is on the board of an arts center in Florence, said she was participating in the march for her sixth or seventh time.
“I feel like of the fundraisers in this area, Monte’s March is one of the ones that makes the biggest impact on the people that it’s trying to serve,” Dunaway said.
State Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, and state Rep. Tami Gouveia, D-Acton, two candidates in the 2022 Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, participated in the march.
“This is my first one,” Hinds said, speaking Monday. “I was very happy to not watch from afar.”
He also said that it’s unfortunate that money needs to be raised for the cause at all.
“We should end hunger now,” Hinds said.
State Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, who is running to succeed Hinds in the state Senate was also on the march. It was Mark’s third time marching, but the first time he’s done the full march from Northampton to Greenfield.
“Hunger’s often an invisible thing,” Mark said, noting that the food bank has food to offer. “If you’re out there and you’re questioning how you’re going to get through some of these meals over the holidays it’s a great resource.”
U.S. Sen Ed Markey was another marcher, as was his 2020 Democratic primary rival, Joseph Kennedy III.
Kennedy said that this is his fifth or sixth time participating in the march.
“To see the amount of people who turn out year after year … is amazing,” he said.
Asked for how long he plans to march, Belmonte said he’ll “take it year to year.”
“If we solve the problem of food security by next year then I won’t do it,” Belmonte said.
He clarified that should this happen, however, he would still consider taking a victory lap.