Deerfield Academy students to volunteer at Food Bank for Martin Luther King Day

  • A Deerfield Academy student walks across campus on a wintry afternoon, Monday, April 4. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

Recorder Staff
Published: 1/14/2018 7:10:59 PM

DEERFIELD — In Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of the “Beloved Community,” poverty, hunger and homelessness would be no more as all people share in the wealth of earth — realizing that individual well-being is inextricably linked to the well-being of others.

Deerfield Academy students will honor the civil rights leader’s legacy on Tuesday by partnering with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts to combat hunger on a local level. The school’s freshman class will volunteer time at 10 food pantries and hunger-relief organizations in the Pioneer Valley, serving meals, taking deliveries, cleaning and more.

“The whole point is, in addition to doing something meaningful and productive, to really educate these kids about food insecurity in our immediate area,” said Jessica Day, spokeswoman at Deerfield Academy. “It’s something that Dr. King spoke about, so this directly relates to that kind of community idea — we’re all in this together and there are very important reasons to be aware of the people around you.”

The school holds workshops in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day every year, but this is the first time students will collaborate with the Food Bank. While freshmen are volunteering, the sophomore, junior and senior classes will attend workshops on a variety of topics, including one on empathy and storytelling led by Jeff Hobbs, author of “The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace.”

Chris Wojcik, spokesman for the Food Bank, said the nonprofit has schools visit from time to time throughout the year. On Tuesday, Deerfield Academy students will spend several hours at partner agencies cooking and serving meals, receiving deliveries, organizing, cleaning and more.

“It’s important because it really gives them an understanding of the scope of food insecurity in our community, and it’s important because they can learn about the Food Bank’s mission and how they can take action to support our work,” Wojcik said.

Last year, the organization served 223,000 people in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties through its member agencies.

“It’s really to sort of get them off of campus and to realize while they’re very fortunate here, right up the road there are people who may struggle with food insecurity, so it’s that first-hand perspective,” Day added.

In keeping with the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Wojcik said there are a number of ways people can get involved with the Food Bank — whether it’s donating money, volunteering time or calling representatives to advocate for change on a policy level.

Deerfield Academy students will volunteer at Open Pantry: Loaves and Fishes Kitchen and the Third Baptist Church in Springfield, Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen in Chicopee, Neighbors Helping Neighbors in South Hadley, The Food Bank in Hatfield, The Northampton Survival Center, Easthampton Community Center and the Easthampton Congregational Church, Not Bread Alone in Amherst and St. Vincent de Paul Society in Westfield.

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