Thousands of meals will be provided to residents of Broome County thanks to local organizations and Binghamton University students’ hunger to serve the community.
The Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) held its 32nd annual fundraising walk on Oct. 19 which, as of Monday, was projected to have raised $20,000.
The 1.5 mile walk took place around the perimeter of the Brain. Over 80 student volunteers from the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), Poverty Awareness Coalition (PAC) and the Pre-Dental Association helped run games and worked at food tents throughout the day.
Since 1976, CHOW has provided food to impoverished families at no cost through fundraising events like the walk. There are currently around 30 food pantries and 30 meal sites, according to Leslie Cody, a CHOW program assistant.
“We really wanted to involve both the community and school because this event has always really been more of a community orientated event,” Cody said. “But we’re really trying to involve students a lot more and bridge the gap.”
CHOW Director Michael Leahey said the walk is the organization’s largest fundraiser and an opportunity to educate the community about food insecurity.
“The winter months are the hardest months for the people that we serve,” Leahey said. “We put out a third of our food in the months of November, December and January. This walk basically helps support the food programs that we run during that time.”
According to Leahey, students helped by volunteering in the CHOW food pantries and soup kitchens and working on CHOW farms and in the main warehouse.
“The walk is a wonderful way for the students to get involved and support the community that they live in here,” Leahey said. “CHOW relies heavily on the volunteers that are provided by the University’s organizations and the local community.”
Besides volunteering, BU students worked alongside CHOW to design a bus that will sell food at discounted prices to families in the Broome County area — an idea unveiled at the walk.
“CHOW takes the bus throughout the county to under-served areas and we sell food,” Cody said. “The profit goes towards a lunch for a kid when they’re not in school during the summer time.”
Shriman Balasubramanian, a junior double-majoring in biology and management, was on the team that helped design and plan the bus program.
“Our team helped CHOW start up a Kickstarter video and campaign for the bus and we planned out the bus routes for CHOW, taking into consideration where [people in] low-income areas have to really walk more than half a mile to a grocery store,” Balasubramanian said. “I can’t wait to see how it looks all together and what the people think about it.”
Jieni Qian, a sophomore majoring in biology, said that the overall event demonstrated a positive way for the University to engage with the community.
“It’s great to see the community coming together, working with BU students to progress such a great cause,” Qian said. “I love that we are able to give back to the Binghamton community by helping with this walk.”