FRAMINGHAM – When Mark Roberts read headline after headline about the economic impact of the pandemic in February, Mark Roberts thought of the families affected.
“I’ve seen articles about the 15 million people who lost their jobs and couldn’t find them during the pandemic, and I wondered how they should support their families,” he said.
Roberts, who lives in Stow, wondered how he could help.
What if he got into his electric wheelchair, walked hundreds of miles and raised money to help fight world hunger, he thought. His 6 year old Labradoodle, Mocha, would faithfully walk next to him.
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In 2017, Roberts was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition called rhomboid myeloneuropathy. He’s been into it a lot over the past few years, but this year he felt he had enough strength to achieve that goal.
“A crazy old man in a wheelchair with a super cute dog”
“I thought a crazy old man in a wheelchair with a super cute dog could be the catalyst for doing exactly what we’re doing today – talking about hunger,” said Roberts on Monday morning as he presented the United Way of Tri-County visited Framingham office.
Roberts was invited to speak at United Way’s Pearl Street Cupboard & Cafe to share his story and raise awareness of food insecurity. And of course Mocha was with him.
Since September 18, the couple has raised more than $ 50,000 by walking around Massachusetts. They started in West Stockbridge on the New York Line and plan to end at the tip of the Cape in Provincetown early next month. By the time they finish they will have run more than 300 miles.
Roberts’ nonprofit 4Paws 4Wheels 4Hunger plans to donate funds raised to the Save the Children Foundation and Western Mass Food Bank, Worcester County Food Bank, Merrimack Valley Food Bank and Greater Boston Food Bank.
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United States MPs Jim McGovern and Katherine Clark attended the event on Monday and took the opportunity to discuss the work being done at the federal level.
“I believe eating should be seen as a basic human right,” said McGovern, a Worcester resident who represents the 2nd Congressional District. “But in this country we seem to be managing hunger and not ending it.”
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McGovern chairs the House Rules Committee, which has served as the Hunger and Needs committee for the past several months.
“We have held hearings across the country and in Washington,” he said. “We held round tables to see how we could actually solve this problem so that Mark and Mocha didn’t have to do this all the time.”
McGovern said members of Congress are asking President Joe Biden to host a conference in the White House on food, nutrition, hunger and health to “take a holistic view of this issue.” He said the last such conference was more than 50 years ago.
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Roberts said he had “the time of his life” when he completed the walk. It was a great experience to meet people from all walks of life, he said, and it has helped him stay true to his goal.
“The number of people who have told me their personal story about being hungry as a child is incredible,” he said. “When I said one in five kids didn’t have enough to eat, a person at Whole Foods – really nicely dressed – said, ‘I was one of those five.”
Cesareo Contreras can be reached at 508-626-3957 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.