NEW YORK — On Oct. 17, WhyHunger held its annual Chapin Awards Gala at the HardRock Café in Times Square, honoring Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter and philanthropist Jason Mraz with the ASCAP Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award, and Collection 18 CEO and philanthropist Andrew Pizzo with the WH Chapin Award. WH invited Mraz to sing to its guests while raising more than $218,000, which will be used to support WH’s work to end hunger and to advance the human right to nutritious food in the United States, and globally.
As part of his three-song set, Mraz sang one of Chapin’s signature songs, “Circle,” with Tom Chapin (Harry’s brother), Jen Chapin (Harry’s daughter), Jon Cobert and Michael Mark. Mraz, like Harry Chapin and WhyHunger, has long used music to support causes, including his foundation, which focuses on humanitarian issues through arts education. Cobert and Mark have worked frequently with Tom Chapin, who, like Jen Chapin, is on the WH board of directors.
I first met Harry Chapin, WH’s co-founder, in 1979, as a student volunteer with the Food and Hunger Hotline, a project of World Hunger Year, which later was named WhyHunger. Along with priest and DJ Bill Ayres, Chapin developed his organization in 1975, inspiring people, including myself, to look critically at social and economic injustice in New York and to fashion a solution to hunger.
WhyHunger continues Chapin’s passion for helping those in need by building a food justice movement in partnership with grassroots partners to envision a world without hunger.
While Times Square has been reinvented and revitalized since WH was formed, with coffee bars and Verizon stores at every corner, the vast social and economic inequalities in New York and our country remain. According to WH’s website, 41.2 million Americans are food insecure, meaning they are forced to skip meals or eat inadequate amounts of food at each meal. WH’s report indicates that 3.1 million households with children are food insecure at some time each year. Poverty, a root cause of hunger in America, leaves 40.6 million people living in dire straits, including 13.3 million children, according to this report.
On my way to the event, I walked by countless homeless people in the Times Square area, stopping to give some money to a young man and his dog. This ritual has been consistent for me from before meeting Harry Chapin, but our chance encounter reminded me to never walk by people in need without helping when at all possible, and to look for systemic change.
WH’s annual Hungerthon will take place, as usual, in November; last year’s Hungerthon raised $1.1 million. No information on this year’s Hungerthon is available, but for updates and information on other WH initiatives, visit whyhunger.org.
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