ACRS at Walk For Rice event on June 24, 2017.

The following is an announcement from ACRS:

Over a thousand people gathered at Seward Park on Saturday, June 24, 2017, to take part in the annual Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) Walk for Rice and to increase awareness of hunger and combat it in our region. Funds benefit the agency’s Chinatown-International District food bank and its emergency feeding and nutrition programs.

Walk for Rice has become an annual tradition as local businesses, schools, and generations of community groups and families form fundraising teams with names like “Rice Paper Scissors” and “Starbucks HungerBusters.”

The family and pet-friendly community tradition featured lion dancing, a martial arts demonstration, Japanese taiko drumming and a performance by the Seattle Chinese Girls Drill Team, before a 2.5-mile walk/run around Seward Park. In recent years, the event has grown to include live music by Theory of Change, and Asian American and Pacific Islander-owned food trucks, Tuk Tuk and Slide Thru. A new component added this year was the Walk for Rice Geoteaming game, a mobile application based team building game. The Walk is also an opportunity to highlight community members and organizations that have made significant contributions to its success. This year’s honorees were Stella Leong, Margie Martin and Jane Nishita with CenturyLink’s Pacific Asian American Network for their roles in advocating for the ACRS Food Bank to be included in CenturyLink’s annual nationwide food bank drive. Over the course of 5 years, participation in the food drive has resulted in nearly $278,000 in additional funds to buy food for the ACRS Food Bank and its nutrition programs.

The success of Walk for Rice is matched by the need for it. It was founded in 1990 by Herb and Bertha Tsuchiya and their friend Sam Mitsui. The first Walk took place on Beacon Hill and 40 walkers raised $1,800. Today, many ACRS Food Bank clients are seniors over 65 and youth under 18 years of age. ACRS staff and volunteers serve their mostly Asian American and Pacific Islander clients by providing ethnic foods like rice, tofu, noodles and fresh fruits and vegetables, which are purchased with proceeds from the Walk.

“Hunger is often an invisible problem, especially in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, and among seniors and children. The ACRS Food Bank served over a million pounds of food last year. This is why Pacific Market International is so proud to support Walk for Rice with our own team, and returning as Presenting Sponsor this year,” says Rob Harris, CEO of Pacific Market International (PMI) and past ACRS board member.

Walk participants and other community members begin fundraising months in advance, engaging friends, family, and neighbors to donate and join them. They hold bake sales, barbecues and chili cook-offs that give them a chance to talk about Walk for Rice and invite others to join the fight against hunger. In recent years, supporters have also created more opportunities for their co-workers and companies to engage. “The Gates Asians in Philanthropy group here at the Foundation have been working on ways to connect with others across the region who share our goal of highlighting issues that affect Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The Asian Counseling and Referral Service Walk for Rice has been a perfect opportunity to reach across corporate boundaries and bring folks together to address hunger in our community,” says Michael Simbre, who works at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This year, Mr. Simbre joined fellow ACRS board members Eunhee Sumner, Trang-Thien Tran and Soma Subramaniam to organize “Hops for Hunger” at Capitol Hill’s Optimism Brewery, which brought together employees from Starbucks, Amazon, Swedish and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

This year, ACRS will expand the number of its mobile pantry sites from 19 to 26 to serve the needs of additional groups who live further out in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties and cannot readily get to its food bank. “With the increased number of sites, we’re serving more people. And with growing needs in our communities, it’s critical we urge Congress not to cut things like Medicaid or food stamps, which affect the most vulnerable among us. No one should have to choose between putting food on the table and getting the health care that they need,” says G De Castro, director of the agency’s aging and adult services.

As of noon on the day of the event, this year’s Walk for Rice has raised over $194,000.

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