As a dietitian, the issue of hunger hits home for DeKalb resident Jane Hapeman.
She has been walking in the Sondra King Memorial CROP Hunger Walk for more than 10 years to help bring awareness to hunger and food insecurity in DeKalb County and around the world.
The CROP Walk raises money for both local food pantries and nonprofits that help fight hunger in third-world countries.
“We have several food pantries in DeKalb County, so the problem here is more financial,” Hapeman said. “People can’t afford to buy food, but worldwide, there often isn’t even any food to buy. The money helps support organizations that teach residents of poor countries how to farm and use tools, as well as build water wells and safe latrines.”
Members of DeKalb and Sycamore churches gathered at DeKalb’s Westminster Presbyterian Church on Sunday afternoon to participate in either the 4-mile walk or the 1-mile walk.
About 25 percent of the proceeds benefit several local organizations, including Hope Haven, Safe Passage, Barb City Food Mart, the Sycamore Food Pantry at United Methodist Church, Meals on Wheels and the Feed My Sheep Food Pantry at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in DeKalb. The remaining 75 percent goes to the Church World Service, which distributes the funds to various programs related to third-world hunger.
Martha O’Gorman, event co-coordinator, said people often don’t realize how large the hunger problem is across the globe.
“This walk is very rewarding to me, and it’s something my heart is into,” she said. “I know the money is going somewhere specific and the types of programs it supports. I also like that all the church groups come together for this.”
Joel Mauer, co-coordinator of the Sycamore Food Pantry at United Methodist Church, said the pantry receives about $1,000 from the walk to buy canned food and paper products.
“This is a good way for churches to come together and raise money for hunger-relief efforts globally and locally,” he said. “Our food pantry fills some need in the community.”
Jenny Sidemore of DeKalb was walking for the first time with her church, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Sycamore. She said the CROP Walk is personal for her.
“My husband and I have faced hard times and have needed to use food pantries at points in our lives,” she said. “So I feel like I have to give back. If you take, you have to give back.”
Tim Stamatakos of Sycamore and his 9-year-old son, Finn, were walking for the first time with Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb. Stamatakos said he felt like he needed to walk to help victims of the recent hurricanes.
“I want to help fight hunger, and just do what I can. It’s important to get out of your living room chair to help people in need,” he said. “All the hurricane devastation got me thinking about this. I think we’re all closer to poverty and destruction than we think.”
Anastacia Turner of Sycamore said she wanted to walk because she knows how fortunate she is to live in this community, and she wants to help others who aren’t so lucky.
“This is a great cause, and people talk about doing something, but not a lot of people actually do anything. So I wanted to do something,” she said.
The Northern Illinois University Student Dietetic Association also was involved with the event. Members of the group have been participating in the CROP Walk for many years.
This year, about 10 members participated, and the group raised about $100, association president Paulina Karecka said.
“We reach out to friends and family to raise money to promote hunger awareness on campus,” she said. “We also want to support our food pantries. Not a lot of people are aware of hunger issues, and it’s something we should pay more attention to.”