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Community takes strides against hunger, literally

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The Emergency Food Network (EFN) wrapped up its first official Hunger Awareness Month on Saturday, May 20, with a Hunger Walk and 5K Run fundraiser. More than 650 runners and walkers took advantage of a beautiful sunny morning at Lakewood’s Fort Steilacoom Park to show support for a noble cause that affects one in seven people in Washington.
“We could not have been more pleased with the event,” said Helen McGovern-Pilant, Executive Director at the EFN. “The turnout was perfect. We had teams who had not participated before and teams who had been doing it for decades. We had individuals who next year want to form teams!”
To support those running and walking, over 100 volunteers helped make the event run smoothly. Volunteers included two bands, The Possible Solutions and The Derivatives, and Deena the Zumba Instructor, who helped warm everyone up before the race began.
Saturday’s Hunger Walk and 5K Run was the first of its kind since the Associated Ministries transitioned the event over to the EFN.
“For 35 years, EFN has benefited from the generosity of our community and Associated Ministries,” explained McGovern-Pilant, “and taking it over could have resulted in less financial support than we have received in the past.  Saturday’s success solidified that it is indeed a relay race.  Associated Ministries handed the baton to EFN, they ran their strong leg. Now it is our turn and the community continued to support, or race, to provide nutritious food to our neighbors.”
The proof of the event’s success can be seen in the numbers. While donations are still flowing in, the EFN boasted $110,000, which was leveraged into an additional $65,000 grant from the Safeway/Albertson Foundation for dairy purchases. “This was the first Hunger Awareness Month in Pierce County,” said McGovern-Pilant. “We couldn’t be more grateful to our community as we heard so many talking about it, raising money and awareness to help. We are already planning for a bigger success next year.”
Even though Pierce County’s first Hunger Awareness Month is drawing to a close, work at the EFN continues. McGovern-Pilant said that with the school year ending, the need becomes even greater for children. “While May was Hunger Awareness Month, we want folks to know that the numbers relying on food pantries will go up through the summer as many of the 58,000 students who rely on free and reduced lunch programs at school will not have access to summer meals.”
The EFN also plans to take advantage of the warm weather at their Mother Earth Farm, an organic 8-acre farm in Puyallup Valley that distributes 80,000 pounds of food to local food banks and meal sites. Volunteers are welcome to stop by Friday through Sunday to help with planting, weeding, and harvesting.
The need for volunteers doesn’t end at the farm either. “There are many ways that our community can help,” said McGovern-Pilant. “They can plant an extra row in their own garden and donate to a food pantry.  [They] could host a food or fund drive.  How about a spice drive?  When it is buy one get one free, choose the free one to donate!  Spices are expensive yet still needed to make your food taste as it should.”
Those interested in donating their time and/or money, go to www.efoodnet.org/ for the most up to date information.

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