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SPRINGFIELD — This May, people have the chance to walk or race around Springfield’s Forest Park, while helping to feed those in need at the Outrun Hunger 5K Race and 1 Mile Fun Walk.

Outrun Hunger is organized every two years by Rachel’s Table, an anti-hunger organization, and its Teen Board. The event kicks off at 9 a.m. on May 19.

“The race is one day, but hunger is year-round,” said Rachel’s Table of Western Massachusetts Executive Director Jodi Falk.

For the first time this year, the course will be in Forest Park in Springfield. Participants will receive discounted admission to the Zoo at Forest Park on the day of the event.

Another first for this year is the inclusion of a story walk for children up to age 8 and their families, sponsored by PT Library, a program of the Springfield Jewish Community Center. The story is “Mitzvah Pizza,” about food insecurity and justice, or “mitzvah.” The Springfield Thunderbirds mascot Boomer will also attend the race and walk.

Outrun Hunger is the largest fundraiser organized by Rachel’s Table. Falk said money is raised through registration fees, sponsoring participants, donations and corporate sponsors, which are responsible for the largest portion of the fundraising.

The registration fee for the race is $35, while the fun walk is $30. Registration is open until 10 p.m. on May 17. For those who cannot make it to Forest Park on May 19, there is a virtual participation option with a registration fee of $25. There is a $20 fee to participate in the Story Walk. Registration for these events is open until 11:59 p.m. on May 19. Whether walking as part of a team or as an individual, participants are invited to bring non-perishable food items.

Rachel’s Table began 32 years ago as a program from the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts.

Over the past three decades, Rachel’s Table has grown to a point where it did not make sense to continue as an offshoot of another organization. The anti-hunger group officially broke away from the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts and became its own nonprofit in 2023.

However, the change had been a long time coming. In 2019, Rachel’s Table began a slow, intentional process of expanding its footprint by identifying communities in which it could fill a gap in hunger reduction services. While its original focus was the greater Springfield area, Rachel’s Table now has programs in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties, as well as select areas in northern Connecticut.

It partners with more than 90 food donors, including area farms, to source more than 760,000 pounds of food each year and distribute it to those in need with the help of about 65 agencies and organizations.
Rachel’s Table has also been growing in scope, beyond purchasing and rescuing food that would otherwise be thrown away. Falk said Rachel’s Table is seeking to “not only alleviate hunger but one day, eradicate it” by addressing its underlying causes. She said access to healthy food is one facet of that larger goal, which is why the organization began working with the Northeast Organic Farmers’ Association to plant gardens and educate people on how to grow food.

The organization also started a “gleaning” program. Falk explained that gleaning is the act of picking excess produce and other foods that farmers cannot sell. Rachel’s Table partners with local farms to glean. In addition to providing another way to rescue food, not throwing food into landfills to rot lessens the planet’s greenhouse gases. She said climate change is affecting the ability to grow food and pointed to 2023’s extreme frost and flooding as an example of this.

The volunteers who pick the food include community members who Falk described as “on the edge of food insecurity.” Gleaning helps them directly, while also helping others, she said.

She shared, “Hunger is kind of invisible. We might not know what the person next to us is going through. Rachel’s Table is the answer to the question, ‘How can I help?’”

To register for the race or walk, or to learn more about Rachel’s Table, visit feedwma.org.

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