Muscatine’s 46th annual CROP Hunger Walk will take place on October 1, 2017.

CROP Hunger Walks are community fundraising events sponsored by Church World Service (CWS), a global relief, development, and refugee resettlement agency. Money raised by CROP Hunger Walks is used by CWS to provide food, medical care, disaster relief, and self-help development for needy people around the world.

Regional Coordinator for Church World Service Chantel Boyd explains, “CROP Hunger Walks are a crucial part of fighting hunger for our neighbors near and far, and without the generosity of those involved, we wouldn’t be able to help stock food pantries across the U.S. and fund global programming. Annually, CROP Hunger Walks generate $10,000,000 across the U.S., and Muscatine has historically been in the top five walks in Iowa for many years.”

The Muscatine CROP Hunger Walk has had many churches actively participating. In the beginning, the route was 10 miles long, later shortened to 10K, then finally became today’s much shorter route along the Muscatine riverfront.

For many years, a matching grant from New Hope Foundation (formerly E & M Charities) was awarded. This meant that the total funds raised became more than $30,000 in recent years. However, that partnership has expired, and the 2016 walk was the last year for that donation. Judy Brotherton, longstanding Coordinator for the Muscatine CROP Hunger Walk, said, “We can’t imagine not giving the most we possibly can to our hunger programs in Muscatine. After decades of giving thousands of dollars to the area food pantry and now Bag of Blessings, we can’t bear to think we would not be able to give as much when our neighbors need it the most.”

Each year, 25% of the money collected in the Muscatine CROP Hunger Walk goes to the community, with 20% going to the Muscatine Community Food Pantry and 5% going to Bag of Blessings. These gifts have been instrumental in assisting both hunger programs. Since the matching grant is no longer available, the stakes are higher than ever for the 2017 Muscatine CROP Hunger Walk.

As an independent, nonprofit organization with a board, the Muscatine Community Food Pantry is solely responsible for providing supplemental food assistance to individuals and families who are suffering with food insecurity. In 2016 alone, the pantry served over 19,000 individuals who walked into the pantry for assistance at least one time and over 51,000 family members. In the past 18 months, daily totals have increased from an average of 65 individuals who came from one to three times a week to a current average of about 145 individuals each day the pantry is open. The Pantry also serves 30 home-bound individuals who apply for assistance and receive a “bag” of food products and produce twice a month. Volunteers deliver food personally to those approved for the program. The pantry also purchases and packs emergency food sacks and soap products which are distributed by county case managers.

Funds raised for the pantry come from individuals, clubs and organizations, churches, and businesses who donate financial assistance to the pantry as well as food products. In the past year, over 70,000 pounds of food product have been donated. With the dramatic increase in the distribution of food products, the pantry is always looking for increased funds to meet the needs in the community. The pantry does not receive funding from the United Way, Muscatine County, or the City of Muscatine. Bill Dyar in his leadership role at the food pantry reports that last year the Muscatine CROP Hunger Walk gave $6324.19 to the Muscatine Community Food Pantry.

The Bag of Blessings program was started in January 2010 by a youth group at Faith United Church of Christ because educators were finding that there were students in Muscatine who had very little or no food over the weekend. The mission of Bag of Blessings is to provide food security to elementary students in Muscatine living in poverty by sending home nutritious food on weekends.

Currently, there are four menus containing 10 items with an approximate cost of $4 per bag. These menus are rotated weekly. Bags are handed out each Friday at the local schools. Children are identified by the teachers, counselors, and principals at the elementary school, and parental permission is required. There is no cost to the students, and the program is supported by donations from churches, corporations, groups and individuals in the community.

In the school year ending May 2017, there were 230 bags sent home with elementary students from each elementary school in Muscatine. Pat Mundell in her leadership role at Bag of Blessings shares that the organization received $1581.05 from the 2016 Muscatine CROP Hunger Walk.

Without the matching grant this year, the Walk will need to double the donations or face decreasing the gift given to the food pantry and Bag of Blessings by 50%.

You can help spread the news, give to the cause, join a team, or start a team. Get involved today with the Muscatine CROP Hunger Walk by visiting www.crophungerwalk.org/muscatineia. You can sponsor a walker by giving, share via social media, join a team, or start a new one. CROP Hunger Walks are community-wide events, and all community members associated with schools, businesses, and other nonprofits are welcome. New this year, there is a Facebook page for the Muscatine CROP Hunger Walk. Visit https://www.facebook.com/MuscatineCROP/ to get the latest news.