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VESTAL – Hundreds of people braved the chillier-than-normal temperatures Sunday to help dozens of local food pantries and soup kitchens stock up for the encroaching winter season.
The 32nd annual CHOW Hunger Walk took place at Binghamton University and two other locations, drawing an estimated 800 people between the three walks, according to CHOW director Michael Leahey.
The walks typically bring in between $20,000 and $30,000, making the day the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse, Leahey said.
Every dollar the group raises translates to almost four meals it can provide to members of the community. Participants of the walks are also encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to donate. Otsiningo Park in the Town of Dickinson and the village green in Windsor hosted the other two walks.
The walks help put food on the shelves of the 32 food pantries and 30 soup kitchens CHOW serves in partnership with its sister program, Broome Bounty.
Last year, CHOW and Broome Bounty distributed more than 1.2 million pounds of food and 1 million meals, free of charge, according to the groups.
The timing of the Hunger Walk just before the cold arrives makes it especially important to the pantries and meal sites, Leahey, 45, of Endwell, said.
“It allows us to prepare for the upcoming winter months and the school break at the end of December, where so many young people in our community go home and they don’t have access to the school breakfast and lunch,” Leahey said.
The walk at BU this year totaled around 1.5 miles. Walkers started in the parking lot behind the East Gym, wound through the center of the campus and ended back in the lot, where food and music waited for them under white tents.
Binghamton resident Sue Tesar attended the walk with her 7-year-old grandson, Nicholas Valky, of Vestal. Tesar said she had worked with CHOW before at her church, and thought the walk provided a great opportunity to teach members of the younger generation.
“(The walk) benefits all the folks in the area that are more needy than (some) of us,” Tesar, 57, said.
In addition to the walkers, about 70 BU students were among those who volunteered to help run the event, according to Tom Lamphere, senior staff assistant at the university’s Center for Civic Engagement.
Lamphere, 62, of Johnson City, said the Hunger Walk provides students with an awareness that hunger exists in Broome County, and a chance to connect with the community in an effort to abolish it.
“This is a wonderful event where … (the) community and the campus comes together with one common goal, and that’s to fight hunger,” Lamphere said.