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Thousands take to the streets for GOOD food

May 1st, 2018

For most of the 30 years I have lived in Grand Rapids, I have participated in the Hunger Walk. I have walked to eliminate hunger and to alleviate hunger. I walked in the GRACE Hunger Walk, the ACCESS Hunger Walk, and the Access of West Michigan Hunger Walk. As a pastor I led my congregations in walking to raise funds and awareness of hunger issues in Grand Rapids and around the world.

This year I lead UCOM (United Church Outreach Ministry, 1311 Chicago Dr SW, Wyoming, MI) in our involvement with the Walk for Good Food. What’s the difference? This year I can state emphatically that all calories are not equal. It is not enough to quiet the rumblings of hungry tummies. This year UCOM and the other agencies and organizations sponsoring the Walk for Good Food join with Access of West Michigan to raise awareness that our food system must go beyond charity food. We need good food, food that sustainable, equitable, healthful and affordable. This year I want to go on record proclaiming that everyone has a right to good food. Twinkies, sugary drinks and candy bars are not good food.

I also have to say that just giving away unwanted and unpurchased over-produced food is not sufficient to change the face of hunger. For more than my 30 years in Grand Rapids, good people have walked and collected money. The face of hunger, though it may have changed somewhat, remains based in poverty, and all of the emergency food in the world will not make the necessary difference. We are still plagued with food deserts (big areas where there is little access to fresh produce and other good food), obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease (which are often symptoms of high calorie foods), low and minimum-wage jobs that do not permit people to pay bills and still eat properly, and racism that limits wealth and nutrition. Access to good jobs and education is limited to a few people.

So this year, when thousands of people take to the streets in our fair city to raise funds and awareness, let me be clear that we are seeking funds and action for GOOD food: food that is green (sustainable), nutritious, fair (in that people throughout the food system are adequately compensated for their labor), and affordable.

Will UCOM continue to provide “emergency” food at no cost to participants? Yes, and this food will be of the highest quality possible. Moreover, while we provide for immediate needs of our neighbors, we will work together with them to make our food system and our lives more equitable in whatever ways we can. Your walking and giving and telling the story can make even more difference this year than in years gone by.

The 2018 Access of West Michigan Walk for Good Food takes place Sunday, May 6, beginning at 1:30 at Park Congregational United Church of Christ in downtown Grand Rapids. For more information go to accessofwestmichigan.org.

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