CROP walk one more step in fight against hunger

CROP walk one more step in fight against hunger

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LINCOLN - Lincoln High School senior Sara Rossetti joined about a dozen others Sunday in the Church World Service three-mile CROP walk here.

Rossetti wishes more people were dedicated to fighting hunger. "What we take for granted every day is treasured somewhere else," Rossetti said.

CROP is a national program that began 60 years ago, in 1947, as a way for Midwest farm families to share their grain with those in post-World War II Europe and Asia. Through the years, it has evolved into a program that encourages the entire community to participate.

"We have a lot of people who have collected money, but just weren't able to come out and walk today," said Logan County CROP chair Tonita Reifsteck.

Previously, the group's acronym was Christian Rural Overseas Program. But it now stands for Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty.

"It's not just rural now, and it's not just churches that are involved," said Janet Young, CWS Great Rivers regional director.

Logan County farmers have participated since 1947 by annually donate a percentage of each of their "scale tickets" to CROP, said. Reifsteck, and local grain elevators promote the program.

This year's CROP participants represented churches and community organizations like the Rotary Club and Kiwanis. Farmers in original CROP programs initially donated their grain overseas. Now 25 percent of the money raised can be donated locally to food pantries, soup kitchens and other organizations that fight hunger.

That local fundraising is becoming a more important part of the program each year.

"More than 33 million Americans - including 13 million children - live in households that experience hunger or the risk of hunger." said Reifsteck, adding that ot is an increase of 8 million since lat year.

At Lincoln's walk, 25 percent of the funds raised will go to the Central Illinois Economic Development Corp., a non-profit organization that has several programs, including a senior nutrition program and food pantries. In addition to funds, canned foods will be collected at area churches this week.

"CIEDC has seen a 60 percent increase in the number of people seeking their services," said Reifsteck. She speculates that may be because of layoffs and cutbacks by regional employers.

"There seems to be a bigger need now for local donations than 30 years ago, said Young. "For many food pantries, the money coming from the CROP walk is one of the biggest donations they get all year."

The walks themselves have changed over the years, too. The first walk in North Dakota in 1969 was 25 miles. The long distance illustrated the fact that in the developing world, people must walk long distances to access water and food.

One thing that hasn't changed though, is the dedication of the walkers. Rossetti started in third grade and has walked every year. At first, she says, she didn't really understand what it mean to participate, but now she does.

"I can go to the cupboard and get graham crackers anytime I want. I want to share what I have. At the end of the walk, I know I've helped someone."

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