Red Bank Crop Walk to be Held Oct. 18

The 35th annual event aims to raise $135,000 to alleviate hunger.

Red Bank, N.J. — The 35th annual Red Bank Crop Walk will be held on Sunday, Oct. 18. Hundreds of attendees are expected to participate in the 5-mile walk.

Crop hunger walks are community-wide events that take place across the nation. Funds raised by the walks are used to fight hunger in both local communities and around the world. According to their website, the Crop Hunger initiative was founded in 1947 by the Church World Service in an effort to help rebuild Europe after World War II.

“It has evolved into a strong, interfaith effort to help local and global partners improve the lives of millions,” said Sara Swijter, treasurer of the Red Bank Crop Walk.

Janie Schildge has been coordinating the walk since the early 1980s. What started as a small, church-based event has grown to include nearly 1,000 participants.

“The Red Bank Crop Walk is now the largest volunteer walk in the country,” said Schildge.

In the last four years alone, the Red Bank Crop Walk has raised nearly $460,000 and generated several tons of food donations for local pantries. Since its founding, the walk has raised over $2 million.

For the 35th anniversary, Red Bank coordinators of the walk have set a fundraising goal of $135,000. Of the funds raised, 25 percent will remain in the local community and will be split among 16 partner organizations.

Meal at Noon in Long Branch is a partner organization. The charity provides a hot lunch to those in need every Saturday and distributes bagged lunches every Wednesday. The bagged lunch is one of the largest expenses for the organization, according to Jessica Bragen, assistant director of Meal at Noon.

“Since Meal at Noon relies completely on donations, we benefit tremendously from the Red Bank Crop Walk. We must purchase cold cuts and other items as we do not receive them otherwise,” said Bragen.

With a yearly budget of only $5,000, Meal at Noon benefits from the Crop Walk not only for food donations but also to support their annual toy drive.

“This benefits the people we serve because it enables us to purchase different food items that we may still be in need of, as well as purchase toys for the toy distribution that we do for the kids who come to Meal at Noon,” Bragen said.

The 2014 Red Bank Crop Walk broke all previous records by collecting 8 tons, or 16,000 pounds, of food. This year the goal is to collect 18,000 pounds of rice, beans and peanut butter for local pantries.

“The rice and beans were added in an effort to serve the large Latino population in the two-river area,” said Schildge.

In addition to the 25 percent of donations that support local organizations, the remaining 75 percent goes to areas around the nation and world that are most in need. This global perspective is important to Schildge who saw first-hand the impact of poverty in India during a volunteer mission.

“The global mission is particularly imperative at the moment considering the current (European) refugee crisis,” Schildge said.

In 2014, $82,500 was provided to the Church World Service by the Red Bank Crop Walk for national and global needs. If the 2015 walk is able to meet the fundraising goal, that number would increase to $101,250.

“We must remember that helping others escape a life of grinding poverty, hunger, lack of education or opportunity not only is the right thing to do, but also makes for a more peaceful and safe world for us all,” said Swijter.

To register or learn more about the Red Bank Crop Walk, visit www.redbankcropwalk.com.

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