Over a thousand people gathered at Seward Park on Saturday, June 25, 2016 to take part in the annual Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) Walk for Rice and raised nearly $312,000 to support the organization’s Chinatown-International District food bank. The family and pet friendly event 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. New additions for this year included live music by Theory of Change, and Asian American and Pacific Islander-owned food trucks, Mangia Me and Outside the Box.
The event has become an annual tradition as local businesses, schools, and generations of community groups and families form fundraising teams with names like “Rice Rice Baby” and “Starbucks HungerBusters.”
“Walk for Rice has been a family tradition for the past 26 years. I remember pushing my infant daughter, Lindsay, who is now 25 years-old, in a stroller along Beacon Avenue, marching with the drill team, and serving food to the hungry walkers on the other side of the finish line,” says Gloria Wakayama, daughter of event co-founders, Herb and Bertha Tsuchiya, who started the walk in 1990 with their friend, Sam Mitsui.
The success of Walk for Rice is matched by the need for it. Most 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. Food banks in Seattle distributed nearly 12 million pounds of food last year, and the ACRS Food Bank gave out over a million of that. This is why Pacific Market International is so proud to support Walk for Rice with our own team, and 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, reaching out to friends, family, colleagues and neighbors to donate and join them. “Our partnership with CenturyLink for their Food Bank Match Days grew to a new level this year,” says Jeff Liang, event co-chair and current ACRS board member. “We held over a dozen community fundraisers that drew anywhere from 10-50 people, including the 4th annual Community Health Plan of Washington Rice Bowl, Karaoke Blast for Rice, Bark for Rice, Drag for Rice, Rock for Rice, Words for Rice, IHOP for Rice, bake sales, barbeques and even a fashion necklace sale. It’s so inspiring to see the community come together to fight hunger, and immensely gratifying to see it all come together at the Walk itself. I can’t wait to get started for next year!” says Liang. Community contributions raised during Match Days helped ACRS earn a $100,000 match from CenturyLink.
Slideshow photos courtesy of ACRS: