Nov
18

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The Highway, Trace Adkins, Kenny Chesney & Bruce Springsteen Need Your Help: Hungerthon 2015

Would you like “take the wheel” and be a guest DJ on The Highway and play anything you want? Or maybe you’d like to fly away for a meet & greet with Kenny Chesney on his 2016 “Spread The Love” tour at a stadium of your choice? And then there’s the chance to spin records while co-hosting an episode of Y2 Kountry’s “Throwback” with Trace Adkins.

Each of these can be yours if you’re the highest bidder on Charity Buzz for this year’s Hungerthon benefitting WhyHunger. Hungerthon has become an annual tradition in November since its inception in 1975 involving radio stations, media partners, celebrities and social media to call attention to everyone’s right to healthy food.

This month most of us will begin the holiday season by gathering for meals with friends and family as we celebrate Thanksgiving. Against the backdrop of this season of giving, the issue of hunger is getting increased attention which Feeding America estimates affects 1 in 6 Americans and over 49 million people are “food insecure.”

At least several artists have spoken about the issue of hunger from a personal perspective. In his inspiring book and life story “Walk To Beautiful,” guitarist Jimmy Wayne describes what it’s like to feel hungry. Of all the things he experienced in his troubled youth, the pain of hunger was the worst. “No physical pain I endured affected me quite so deeply as the lack of food and the perpetual gnawing I felt in my stomach.” Wayne said he never got used to being hungry.

”Food banks were an essential resource for my own family and blessing in my life growing up. I will never forget that kindness and humility,” said Brandi Carlile, one of the artists involved in WhyHunger’s Artists Against Hunger and Poverty coalition. This year Carlile is auctioning off a meet & greet and an autographed guitar. “As a traveling musician I have a platform and a social and moral responsibility to raise awareness and funds for community based organizations that combat the ever-growing and completely solvable problem of hunger and poverty. Now, it makes me so proud to give something back.”

This year, WhyHunger celebrated its fortieth anniversary. Bill Ayres was a radio disc jockey on the show “On This Rock” on WABC when he brought on a guest by the name of Harry Chapin, then a popular balladeer and folk singer whose “Taxi” and “Cats In The Cradle” were signature songs of the Seventies singer-songwriter genre. Ayres suggested over dinner that the two try putting together a concert benefiting the starving in Africa but as he later wrote it never got off the ground.

“Even if we had succeeded and raised a million dollars with the concert and then raised a million dollars each night for a year,” Ayres reflected years later, “it would have been only a drop in the bucket. We realized that to truly effect change, we needed a lifelong commitment to ending hunger right here in the USA. We needed to support local solutions to this global problem.”

The bond they formed would lead to a fledgling organization called World Hunger Year (later changed to WhyHunger.). The Hungerthon radiation began an annual Thanksgiving tradition that continues to this day (only interrupted for a few years after the tragic automobile accident that killed Chapin in the early 1980s). WhyHunger has been doing the Hungerthon for nearly 40 years as his organization has built a nationwide network connecting community resource groups.

On Dave Marsh’s SiriusXM radio show Kick Out The Jams on The Spectrum, Ayres talked about the premise that guides WhyHunger. “You have to ask the ‘why’ questions. If you don’t ask the why questions, you won’t change anything.” (Marsh is offering a guest spot on his show on E Street Radio to benefit WhyHunger.)

“Hunger is caused by poverty and poverty is caused by hopelessness,” he said espousing the message he had been saying for years. But as he’s noted many times, people need help and WhyHunger has found the best way to do that is through partnerships with community-based organizations, developing models that help to give people power over food and get access to healthy and nutritious foods. He went on to say that WhyHunger has helped to build the best emergency food systems and is supporting grass roots organizations throughout the country.

“They’re not just giving people food but they’re taking the next step to help get people out of poverty and become self-reliant.” Marsh concurred, saying the “web of connections” that’s developed through WhyHunger has turned out to be the most valuable asset of the anti-hunger movement.

Ayres interviewed another guest on his radio show some forty plus years ago, a young and emerging musician by the name of Bruce Springsteen.  As he told Backstreets Magazine, one time Harry Chapin leaned out of a Los Angeles hotel room and saw Springsteen walking in a courtyard and shouted “What are you going to do about hunger Bruce?” The appeal to Springsteen led to the singer hosting local community food banks at his shows and exposing millions in their own communities.

One of the items benefiting WhyHunger is an oversized commemorative poster of the cover of Born To Run. It commemorates both the year of the release as well as the founding of WhyHunger. The photo of the iconic image of Springsteen and sax player Clarence Clemons is perhaps one of the most famous covers ever and the poster is the idea of photographer Eric Meola. A limited edition of 1975 are being made available to benefit WhyHunger.

As fans bid on experiences this month like a New Year’s Eve concert with Willie Nelson & Family and Kacey Musgraves opening at the Moody Theater in Austin, it’s also a time to reflect on where we are as a society.

For Jen Chapin, an artist and lifelong board member of WhyHunger, she will always remember three words she heard her father Harry Chapin once say. It was the idea of the “obscenity of hunger” that pretty much shaped her identity by the time she got to high school.

“The thing that is most frustrating,” she told me earlier this year while on a break from jury duty, “is the incredible recent wave of politicians who feel comfortable, even righteous, in demonizing the poor. I’m pretty sure that the 49 million Americans who are poor and malnourished, and the many many millions more who are on the edge of economic disaster, are not all lazy.”

Visit hungerthon.org, whyhunger.org and charitybuzz.com to find out how you can get involved. 

About Steve Wosahla

Steve Wosahla's interviews and reviews have appeared in Song Hits, Rock, Good Times, Circus, the Messenger-Press, New Haven Register, Soap Opera Digest and the New York Times. He is a member of the Americana Music Association and lives in Bristow, VA. You can follow him on Twitter: @swosahla.
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