Monte’s March, Year 11, ready to roll Monday, Tuesday

  • Sean Barry, Monte Belmonte and Phil Korman of CISA lead the pack as Monte’€™s March proceeds up Greenfield Road in Deerfield to raise money and awareness for hunger in western Massachusetts. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer 
Published: 11/21/2020 1:25:50 PM
Modified: 11/21/2020 1:25:35 PM

Every year for the past decade during the week of Thanksgiving, WRSI 93.9 The River’s morning host and program director Monte Belmonte leads a large group of fundraising volunteers on a 43-mile march from Springfield to Greenfield to benefit The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

This year, “Monte’s March XI,” which takes place Monday and Tuesday, is more important than ever due to the rising hunger and food insecurity caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Belmonte said.

“What the Food Bank has been saying is that it was about one in 10 people in western Mass. who were food insecure last year and then it’ll be closer to one in six this year,” the radio host said. “One in four kids. It makes me think that we don’t even really completely know how bad it is”

Belmonte said he’s spoken with organizations such as the Amherst Survival Center, the Stone Soup Cafe in Greenfield (which provides a hot meal every week) and the Northampton Survival Center, all of which are giving out twice as much food during the pandemic.

Monte’s March has raised more than $1 million when added up over the years. For 2020, the goal is to raise $365,000, which is the equivalent of 4,000 meals per day at the Food Bank.

“There was not a time where we didn’t think we’d do it at all,” Belmonte said. “There was a time given with learning about COVID and how it transmits where I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll have to do it by myself,’ which is basically what I did on the first march.”

Monte’s March will include at least 25 people marching during the two-day span, while wearing masks and socially distancing during the mileslong trek. However, more teams are fundraising online for the effort than in the past. The top five fundraising teams can send an emissary on the march alongside Belmonte and community leaders such as food security advocate Congressman Jim McGovern.

He added that the march being embraced by members of the western Massachusetts community has been a meaningful experience for him.

“As you walk, you feel like you’re in a fairytale where a marching band comes out from a field that we’re walking by,” Belmonte said. “And then there’s a group of little kids with a rock band set up on the lawn of their school playing as we walk by. And then we’re in downtown Amherst and a huge contingent of the Tibetan community in the Valley is surrounding us and are wrapping themselves in prayer shawls. I try not to be a megalomaniac and let this thing go to my head, but it really felt like a spiritual moment when that happened that I maybe emotionally been trying to ignore for a lot of the years doing it.”

For Belmonte, the march has taken on a life of its own over the years, which he hopes will continue into the future when he eventually steps down from the role at some point in time, though he’s not planning on it yet.

“I’m glad that it’s beyond me. I hope that someday it exists, but doesn’t have my name attached to it and that people feel motivated enough to continue to do it, whether or not I exist or continue to do it.”

For more information about Monte’s March visit foodbankwma.org/events/montes-march11/.

Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@gazettenet.com.


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