SPRINGFIELD – Max Rubin recalls when he and the other teen board members of Rachel’s Table came up with the idea for Outrun Hunger, a 5K run to raise funds to alleviate childhood hunger in Western Mass.
“We were having a brainstorming session about ways to raise money. Someone brought up the idea of doing a 5K, and we kind of just ran with it from there (pun not intended),” said Rubin, a co-president of the teen board along with Ari Rubenstein and Ian Gauthier.
On Sunday, June 1, the teens will hold their second bi-ennial 5K walk-run – the Irene E. and George A. Davis Outrun Hunger ’14. The event will take place at the Springfield Jewish Community Center, 1160 Dickinson St. Participants can register for one of three options: a 5K (3.1 mile) run, a 5K walk, or a one-mile “fun walk.”
“Outrun Hunger is an opportunity to empower our teen board to help alleviate childhood hunger,” said Rachel’s Table executive director Debbie Rubenstein. “They are the next generation of our leaders and are models of commitment and creativity.”
In 2012, more than 167 community members participated in the first Outrun Hunger, which raised more than $15,000.
This year, a grant from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, along with a small registration fee for participants, will cover all the costs of the event.
“This year we hope to pass the $20,000 mark with the donations we raise,” said Rubin. “This is definitely achievable because we have many great sponsors and 100 percent of the proceeds we raise go to our cause.”
This year, the run will be officially timed by the Greater Springfield Harriers, Inc., which they hope will attract some serious runners who might not necessarily be involved in the race otherwise.
All of the routes wind through the streets of Longmeadow and end up back at the JCC, where there will be a short awards ceremony. Prizes will be awarded to the first male and first female runners to reach the finish line, to the team that has the most participants, and to the team that raises the most money.
A special PJ Library program will be held during the registration hour and parents will have the option of taking their children on the 5K walk or leaving them with teenage volunteer babysitters at the JCC.
Too many hungry children
According to Rachel’s Table, childhood hunger is a serious problem in Western Massachusetts where there are approximately 34,000 hungry children. Nearly 50 percent of school-age children in Springfield and Holyoke are “food insecure” – meaning that they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
When they learned about all of the hungry children in Western Mass., the teen board of Rachel’s Table knew they had to do something.
“The teen board felt that it’s never a kid’s fault if they are hungry, so we wanted to help,” said Co-President Ari Rubenstein. “As almost 50 percent of children in the greater Springfield area are food insecure, we felt an obligation to help.”
A new program that will benefit from the race – the Holyoke Backpack Initiative – gives food to children in need of weekend food supplies.
“There are as many as 500 homeless kids that go to Holyoke Public Schools,” Debbie Rubinstein explained. “Many of these kids live in hotels when they close shelters and agencies. A lot of families are in one-room hotels, with maybe a microwave. They have
no access to food over the weekends. During the week they get at least breakfast and lunch at school, but on the weekend they don’t.
So the Holyoke Public Schools started this program to send these kids with backpacks
full of food on Friday.”
“This year is the first year we have been involved with the Holyoke backpack program,” Rubin said. “The backpack program gives backpacks filled with food to underprivileged kids in Holyoke who might not be able to get food over the weekends any other way. As soon as we heard about it, the teen board was involved, and before some of our meetings we had backpack packing sessions in which we formed an assembly line and filled backpacks with food.”
The teens are taking full ownership of Outrun Hunger. They began planning the 5K at the beginning of the school year, breaking into different groups in charge of marketing, getting sponsors, and getting politicians to come to the event.
“We’ve been raising money, recruiting participants, gathering volunteers, creating signs for the race, and advertising through Facebook and brochures,” Ari Rubenstein said. “We will have a booth at Longmeadow Days to further promote the 5K, and we are planning the path of the race and how it will be run.”
“We were all involved in planning the event, and everyone on the board was instrumental in making this happen,” Max Rubin added.
Jennifer McDonald, teen board director, marveled at the hard work and dedication of the teens organizing Outrun Hunger.
“Their tireless efforts are sure to make our second Outrun Hunger a success, providing assistance to the hungry in our area as well as educating those about the hungry in our surrounding communities,” she said. “I am very proud of their efforts and feel lucky to work with such dedicated teens.”
In addition to the grants, major sponsors of Outrun Hunger include The Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation; gold sponsors, Bay State Health, Camp Ramah in NE, and Williams Distributing; silver sponsors, Meyers Brothers Kalicka, PC, Peoples Bank, and Sugar and Spice; bronze sponsors, Berkshire Bank, Chicopee Savings Charitable Foundation, and Susan and Ron Grodsky, along with many other community members.
The $10 registration fee (plus $15 minimum in contributions) includes snacks, water, and a t-shirt. To register for Outrun Hunger 14, or to learn more about volunteering and sponsoring the program, please contact Rachel’s Table at (413) 733-0084, or visit www.RachelsTableSpringfield.org.
Rachel’s Table is a project of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts and WWLP-TV22.