Running for a cause: Deerfield Academy students hold Food Bank fundraiser

  • Reporter Joshua Solomon, right, interviews running student Ian Gordon, 17, at the track at Deerfield Academy. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Andrew Moorehouse, the Executive Director of The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts talks with reporter Joshua Solomon the track at Deerfield Academy on Thursday. May 10, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—

  • Andrew Moorehouse, the Executive Director of The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts talks with Ben Clark of Clarkdale Fruit Farms and former student at Deerfield Academy on Thursday. May 10, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—

  • Students and faculty raise funds for the The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts by walking and running around the track at Deerfield Academy on Thursday. May 10, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—

Recorder Staff
Published: 5/20/2018 9:03:25 PM

OLD DEERFIELD — As a reporter, you often walk into unfamiliar situations. Attend an event, and you’re instantly faced with trying to find who’s the right person to talk to, but even more so, how do you orient yourself to best understand this situation?

Moving from New York City to Franklin County for a reporting job at the Greenfield Recorder, now more than a year ago, has meant constantly been playing catch-up to learn just what is going on. Sometimes, this is a disadvantage, and other times, this plays advantageously, as I can bring a new perspective to a place with centuries of rich history.

So, in a way, it must feel like being a student at Deerfield Academy, who come from all around the world.

Attending a prestigious high school in the middle of western Mass. gives you a chance to meet a diverse group of people. Without a car, or a desire to learn about the world around you, you might end up living an isolated life on campus.

When Jordan Manning, 18, began leading around a dozen students to the Salvation Army in Greenfield at 6:45 a.m. on Thursdays, she saw something that started to chip away at what she had seen to this point as a junior at the school.

Until then, she often thought of Greenfield as the place where the People’s Pint is, a place where she might go when her parents are in town. Yet, she realized that the same people she found at the Salvation Army, for whom she and some of her classmates were cooking pancakes and bacon, might be people she saw hanging out on Federal Street, looking for their next meal.

“Here at Deerfield (Academy), hunger seems like such a far problem from what we live day to day,” Jordan said.

This school year, Jordan and about 50 students at Deerfield Academy led the school’s annual charity fundraiser. After working the two years prior with the Cancer Connection in Northampton, the students decided to put their efforts this year toward battling hunger — the kind that’s in their backyard.

“It’s an unspoken issue,” Ian Gordon, 17, said, as he rounded the track at the high school May 10. “There’s a lot of issues that get a lot of attention,” he continued, speaking between breaths. “It makes me really glad people are here. It feels like people care about it.”

Exercise for hunger

Ian, like the entire student body that Thursday, circled the track for hunger.

It was the culminating event to the year-long effort to educate fellow students about the severity of hunger in the area.

On this spring day in May, Ian ran laps as a part of the school’s fundraiser for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. By the end of the day, people had circled the track for pledges about 3,500 times, good for nearly 10,500 meals.

Talking with Ian as we ran around the track, it was clear how the day meant more to the avid runner than a good excuse for a nice jog.

In his small town in Maine, hunger is a serious issue.

“Back home, you acknowledge the issues,” he told me. “But you feel like you can’t do anything, which is disempowering.”

“People may say this event is disconnected,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, you’re just running.’ But it still draws attention to the issue, and I think it invigorates people in a way that doesn’t happen very often.”

Uwa Ede-Osifo, 17, and Sophie Opler, 17, two of the lead organizers of the fundraiser and campaign, explained how they came to this organization.

“A lot of students thought of (hunger) as a foreign issue and not immediately relevant in the U.S.,” Sophie said. “It’s real in the U.S. and in our local community.”

Uwa, like many of her peers, talked about how often students think about issues like hunger globally, but through efforts like this one, begin to understand in more depth the needs in the area.

“It’s great to get students aware of their community and the larger issues,” said Ben Clark of Deerfield’s Clarkdale Fruit Farms, who is both an academy alumnus and a trustee.

At the track, Clark told students, some of whom only knew him as the guy they got apples from, about the value of giving back locally and fighting hunger. He spoke about Monty’s March, the annual walk and food drive, and about their local representative in Washington, D.C., Congressman Jim McGovern, as a champion for the hungry.

Executive Director of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts Andrew Morehouse, who took part in the laps around the track, said he was impressed with how serious students and faculty take the issues.

“They want it to be a deep experience, and not just quick and dirty,” Morehouse said.

David Miller, the director of the Center for Global Service and Citizenship at the school, said every year, the students try to find an initiative that is important to them. Sometimes, that means they look nationally, like a few years ago when they partook in the popular Relay For Life cancer charity. Other times, like this year, they look locally.

“I really like the idea of students learning globally, but serving locally,” Miller said.

While can drives are good, Miller was happy his students could have a school-year long campaign to educate themselves about the issues around hunger, like food insecurity and that it’s not just an issue for the homeless, but for working people trying to put enough food on the table for their families.

“Of all of the issues we worry about it, hunger in this location and geography should be an issue all of our students care about it,” Miller said.

Opening eyes

Lily Louis, 19, is a graduating senior who has participated in a service project every year. She noted that students can easily turn a blind eye to food insecurity, since there’s always access to plentiful amounts of food on campus.

“I think factual information can help to elevate an issue,” Louis said.

When walking and running around the track, with lunch from the dining hall brought to them, the issues of hunger in Franklin County might still be something easy to overlook for some students at the school. But for those who took the time to break outside of their typical campus bubble, it was a meaningful day.

Reach Joshua Solomon at:

413-772-0261, ext. 264

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