Monte’s March set to put a dent in local hunger

  • U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, right, talks with radio host Monte Belmonte as they march down Pleasant St. in 2015 during the annual “Monte’s March” on their way to completing the 42-mile march from Springfield to Greenfield to raise awareness and funds to support the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts to feed hungry households. GAZETTE STAFF/DAN LITTLE

Published: 11/18/2016 8:17:58 PM

For 43 miles, Monte Belmonte will urge listeners to donate as he pushes a shopping cart and moves step-by-step toward a western Massachusetts without hunger.

The 7th annual Monte’s March to benefit the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts will kick off from Friends of the Homeless, 755 Worthington St., in Springfield at 7 a.m. Monday.

Belmonte, a radio host for WRSI – 93.9 The River, will walk the 43 miles accompanied by U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern and Andrew Morehouse, the executive director of The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

McGovern said the march aims to collect at least $150,000, or enough to provide 500,000 meals, and to raise awareness about food insecurity. “There’s not a city or town in America that’s hunger free,” McGovern said.

But the Worcester Democrat added that private donations and charities can only do so much, and that the government needs to continue to play a role.

“I feel that the stakes are especially high in the aftermath of this election,” McGovern said. “We’re going to have some really fierce battles in the next year.”

He is worried that under President Trump, congressional Republicans may be emboldened in efforts to cut the free and reduced lunch program for children and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and points to the recent news of the potential loss of state funding for the Craig’s Place homeless shelter in Amherst as an illustration of what might happen at the federal level.

“The people who are most vulnerable are also the ones who get their programs cut,” McGovern said. “This is one way to not feel powerless and to empower people who too often feel neglected.”

Joining for part of the march will be U.S. Reps. Joe Kennedy III and Richard Neal, state Rep. Aaron Vega, state Rep.-elect Solomon Goldstein-Rose, students from Holyoke Community College, Greenfield Community College and the Greenfield Center School, local mayors and other community figures.

Over the past six years, the march has raised a total of $393,000 and provided over 1.1 million meals. Last year’s hunger march raised $150,000 for those in need.

This year’s 43-mile journey will be the longest walk yet, lasting from Monday morning into Tuesday evening.

Throughout the march, listeners can call 888-323-HOPE (4673) to donate to the Food Bank, or visit to make a donation. Monte will also collect donations in his shopping cart from people in passing.

Monte was recently named the 2016 Outstanding Volunteer in Philanthropy by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

He was selected for his dedication to fundraising and his contributions to the community, both of which are displayed each year as he leads the Monte’s March event that he founded.

During this year’s march, Monte will travel from Springfield to Greenfield. He, McGovern and Morehouse will make stops in Chicopee, Holyoke and Northampton on Monday, and Hadley, Amherst and Sunderland on Tuesday.

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