With mini march participation, students hope to encourage action on food insecurity

  • Students at Erving Elementary School walk the grounds of the school in support of Monte’s March on Tuesday morning. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Students at Erving Elementary School walk the grounds of the school in support of Monte’s March on Tuesday morning. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Students at Erving Elementary School walk the grounds of the school in support of Monte’s March on Tuesday morning. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Students at Conway Grammar School participate in a mini march around the school property in support of Monte’s March on Tuesday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Students at Conway Grammar School participate in a mini march around the school property in support of Monte’s March on Tuesday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Students at Conway Grammar School participate in a mini march around the school property in support of Monte’s March on Tuesday. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Published: 11/23/2021 3:56:10 PM

Elementary school students across Franklin County did their part to combat food insecurity on Tuesday by joining in mini marches in support of Monte’s March, the annual fundraiser led by radio personality Christopher “Monte” Belmonte that supports the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Conway

Conway Grammar School held its seventh annual mini march on Tuesday morning, with 143 students in preschool through sixth grade marching up and down Fournier Road leading to the school and through the front parking lot and cul-de-sac. Students ranged in age from 3 to 12 years old.

“It’s one of our favorite traditions,” said Principal Kristen Gordon, adding that Belmonte visited the school on Nov. 15 to talk with the students about food insecurity. “The students really have a very good understanding of why we’re doing what we’re doing, and of children and people in need. I talked to a lot of them after Monte’s visit and they just really get it.”

Money raised via an online pledge page (bit.ly/3r2GNSt) set up by speech and language pathologist Jo Cyr-Mutty and a donation bucket in the school’s front office raised at least $3,500, providing at least 14,000 meals.

Sixth-grader Avah Spearance said Belmonte explained that $1 provides up to four meals for those in need.

“Even though it was cold, everyone knew that it was such an important thing to do that we kept pushing,” she said.

“I’m so proud of you I could cry,” Gordon said in response. “That’s really sweet.”

Sixth-grader Evva Campbell said she and her schoolmates were inspired to ignore the chilly winds for a good cause.

“It was cold, but I think everybody did really good,” she said. “Everybody just kept walking and walking, nobody stopped and took a break, really.”

Fifth-grader William Nerritt said some students wore silly costumes to emulate the outrageous attire Belmonte is known to wear during the 43-mile march he leads. Sixth-grader Lucy Zraunig said students conducted some online research before the event and learned 30 percent of Franklin County children struggle with hunger.

“It felt good to be walking to help with that,” she said.

With serendipitous timing, a Thurston Foods delivery truck pulled into the school at 11:22 a.m. and the driver honked the horn in support of the little marchers.

Erving

First-graders and second-graders from Erving Elementary School marched three laps around their school building while chanting and holding signs Tuesday.

Second-grade teacher Stephanie Barry said the students gained a basic understanding of the issue of food insecurity following a unit taught about the difference between “wants” and “needs.” She said students expressed a desire to help those around them, resulting in an organized effort to support Monte’s March. Their enthusiasm was evident as “Feed our neighbors!” and “We march because we care!” chants from young voices filled the chilly morning air.

Barry said the school’s unit on wants and needs resonated deeply with her students.

“Through the reading of various picture books and many deep and loving discussions about taking care of others ... the students decided they wanted to create their own march at the school,” Barry said in a prepared statement. “The result was an incredibly selfless, compassionate, peace-spreading event for all filled to the brim with positive energy, chanting and smiles all around.”

“Kids at this age have such a young, giving heart,” paraprofessional Jill Kolodziej said. “I feel like (food insecurity is) an attainable thing for kids this age to understand and for kids to help with.”

Most participants expressed a sense of duty to their community.

“I feel good when I walk for food,” first-grader Jace Brunelle said.

“People need to eat,” first-grader Annabelle Hamel said. “If they don’t, we won’t have enough people to become friends and family.”

When drivers honked their horns in support, students cheered. The children understood that publicly demonstrating could motivate others to take action against food insecurity, too.

“Soon, there will be a million people helping out with food,” first-grader Arlo Sanchez said.

“I feel like this can inspire people and then we can help the whole world,” second-grader Ella McAndrews said.




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