Walk: The Hunger Walk is returning to in-person participation this year. Courtesy photo

Westside Food Bank’s (WSFB) Annual 5K Hunger Walk is returning to Santa Monica in person this weekend for the first time in two years. 

The event’s goal is to raise over $100,000 to fund the programs which provide hundreds of thousands of meals to individuals and families on the Westside. 

The event has been virtual for the last few years due to the pandemic and CEO Genevieve Riutort said she is excited to get the in-person walk back up and running. 

“The Hunger Walk is, first of all, a way for us to build community, it’s a chance to see each other in person and really celebrate the work that we do, but it’s also a really good chance to raise awareness,” she said. “When you have hundreds of people out on the beach all wearing the same shirt, all walking the walk – it’s a pretty visual statement.” 

There is no charge to attend the walk and all participants will be given a free T-shirt and “swag bag.’’  There is no requirement for walkers to fundraise, but the organization encourages participants to create an online fundraising page through their website to solicit donations. 

“If everyone who signs up asks 10 people to give $10, that $100 would create enough food for 400 meals,” Riutort said. “So it’s an opportunity to make an impact by going out and walking and putting your feet out there but it makes it very easy to also do some fundraising and make an impact with your dollars.” 

She said that type of money makes it possible for the food bank to operate and feed the most people possible. $20,724 has been raised so far.

“We take that money and we buy food by the truckload,” she said. “When you buy food by the truckload you’re getting a much better price… that enables us to have the full range of nutritious food and really make sure that we’re giving people good, solid, healthy food.” 

WSFB services communities all across LA’s westside including Santa Monica as well as West Hollywood, Venice, Inglewood and Culver City.  

“I think there’s somewhat of a misconception that there isn’t any need on the Westside, that everyone that lives on the Westside has lots of money but the truth is there’s quite a bit of need,” she said. “Not only are there the people that clean the homes and do the landscaping who may need access to a food pantry close to work, but there are also neighborhoods where people are really just struggling to pay rent… and that doesn’t leave a lot left behind to buy food.” 

“We really find that our food acts as homelessness prevention,” she added. “Because if we can help a family pay for food and we can provide them really good nutritious food on a regular basis, then whatever limited income they do have they can use to stay housed and meet their other basic needs.” 

This year is Riutrot’s 19th Hunger Walk but her first as CEO, a position she took on in May of this year after having worked with WSFB since 2004. 

“It’s especially meaningful for me because getting the job at the Food Bank 18 years ago was the thing that really helped my family get out of poverty and become secure – food secure, housing secure, financially secure, secure period,” she said. “So it’s really meaningful for me to be able to give back and know that this event is helping other mothers and families like mine that just needed a little bit of help to get through a transitional difficult time.” 

The Hunger Walk is scheduled for Saturday Oct. 16 and will start at Ocean View Park, 2701 Barnard Way. Registration and check-in begins at 12 p.m. followed by live entertainment, activities, games and an awards ceremony. The walk itself begins at 2pm and a Beach Bash After-party is planned for afterwards and requires a ticket purchase. For more information and to register visit: https://secure.qgiv.com/event/32ndhungerwalk/.

grace@smdp.com