By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD – More than 300 people were at Cliffbreakers Events Tuesday for the first Mayor’s Hunger Luncheon in 10 years.
Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara gave the keynote address, telling the audience of dignitaries, city employees and guests that hunger is a community-wide issue, one he says should not exist.
“As a country as rich as the United States, we should be ashamed,” McNamara said of how vital it is for the city to feed the hungry. “Those who are at the bottom of end of our wage scale or continue to be unemployed struggle with what most of us take for granted – paying utility bills, having money for this month’s rent, wondering as they wake up with a chill in the air if they will have warm clothing for their children and one of the most difficult struggles – how they will put food on the table.”
The event was started in the ’80s by McNamara’s father, former Mayor John McNamara, and continued as a fundraiser for Hunger Connection into the late 1990s. It aims to raise awareness and money for regional hunger and highlight organizations working to help alleviate the problem.
The local chapter of Bread for the World revived the annual event.
This year’s proceeds will benefit Roots & Wings, a youth leadership and urban agriculture program led by Angelic Organics Learning Center; Zion Outreach, Rockford Housing Authority and the residents of Blackhawk Courts. The program also honored Ruthie Fairchild, a longtime supporter of Roots & Wings who was killed in a car accident earlier this year.
“It is so good to see so many people from our community come together for such a tremendous cause,” McNamara said.
Salad and bread were served before the main course of soup was doled out to those who formed two lines around the newly remodeled ballroom. The meager lunch symbolized the plight of the hungry and the struggle for area food pantries, kitchens and shelters to provide for the less fortunate.
“In Winnebago County, it is estimated that 40,000 residents experience food deficiencies,” the mayor noted. “The Northern Illinois Food Bank serves more than 70,000 people every single week.”
Tickets were $30 per person. The event was initially capped at 250, but organizers made accommodations for additional attendees who arrived just ahead of the ceremony.
About Roots & Wings
A youth-led program, Roots & Wings is a network of community-based organizations committed to community and youth development through urban agriculture. The main growing location is located in Blackhawk Courts, a property owned by Rockford Housing Authority.
The program grows vegetables using organic and sustainable techniques, while also motivating, educating, and inspiring youth and adults to be leaders and role models. Youth leaders sell their produce through the summer through our Roots & Wings CSA, markets, and direct sale to local restaurants and businesses. Leaders attend national and regional youth leadership and urban agriculture events, such as the Rooted in Community conference. R.