Monte Belmonte Interview: March Madness

WRSI's Monte Belmonte is continuing his annual tradition of pushing a shopping cart from Northampton to Greenfield on Wednesday to raise money for the Food Bank of Western Mass.  We spoke with Monte about how the 26 mile trek came to be.

PCP: Where did the idea of pushing a shopping cart come from?

MB: We had been doing fund/food drives for the Food Bank out in front of Whole Foods for a few years with moderate success.  We wanted to up the ante and figure out how to raise more money.  The Food Bank said “What if you took a shopping cart and pushed it around downtown Northampton?”  I said “What if I took a shopping cart and pushed it from Northampton to Greenfield?”  Ridiculous publicity stunt plus radio station plus great cause equals successful fundraiser.

PCP: How successful have the last few Marches been?

MB: Humblingly successful.  The first goal four years ago was $10,000.  And the goal every subsequent year has been to beat the last year’s donation level.  We’re now looking to raise $45,000.

PCP: How did Rep. Jim McGovern get involved?  Hunger is an issue that seems close to his heart.

Congressman Jim McGovern

MB: Jim McGovern came to the studio for an interview when he became our new Congressman under redistricting.  He had already heard about The March and really wanted to do it last year but Congress was in session.  I told him, “If you want to do it next year I’ll work it around the legislative calendar” and sort of thinking to myself “He’s a politician.  There’s no way he’ll remember and be interested again.”  Sure enough his office contacted ME and said, “He’d really like to do it.”  So I worked the date around him.  I don’t know how ready he is to walk 26 miles but his heart is with ending hunger.  And a little exercise won’t hurt him (hopefully).

...sort of thinking to myself “He’s a politician.  There’s no way he’ll remember and be interested again.”  Sure enough his office contacted ME and said, “He’d really like to do it.”

PCP: What is the public's response? Both in donations and just seeing you walk down the street.  I imagine you get some weird looks.

MB: Some weird looks indeed.  Especially when knights in armor on horseback are marching with me.  Or an entire Rollerderby team (both coming again this year).  We’ve also been pulled over by the police.  We notified them but perhaps the dispatch didn’t pass along the message to the officers.  But the people who do know what we’re doing seem to really be behind it.  Donations that come in while I’m on the road often total in the multiple thousands.

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PCP: You've got lots of folks joining you in the march. What sort of groups do you hope to see marching with you in the future?

Monte Belmonte

MB: Any troupe of exciting, entertaining weirdos would be welcome.  Part of the success is making it a spectacle.  A lot of regular folks and school groups march too.  I love it when kids get involved.

PCP: How big is hunger an issue here in Western Mass?

MB: About 1 in 8 people in Western Mass don’t know where their next meal is coming from*  

PCP: How can the community be involved?

MB: They can call 1-888-323-HOPE (4673) between 6AM and 6PM on Wed.  the 6th.  The can donate on a link we’ll have up on our site on Wednesday or go right to the Food Bank’s donation page.


Photos courtesy of WRSI and the Office of Deval Patrick.