HAZARD—Scooters may not sound like the best way to travel during snow and ice storms that have dropped more snow in the last few months than many have seen in nearly a decade, but for two young men from Maine, it’s the only way to travel—especially when it’s for a good cause.
Dan Emery and Myles Chung arrived in Hazard early last week while working on their American Community Project, a project which will bring them across the 48 contiguous states in 48 weeks on their Honda Ruckus Mopeds all in the name of promoting awareness of and solutions for childhood hunger and the lack of nutrition in the diets of everyone in the U.S.
“It’s a cross-country exploration of hunger needs all over America. So. we’re visiting different places in each of the lower 48 states, identifying what the issues are both relating to solving the issue of hunger, but also the issues that are perpetuated by hunger,” Emery explained. “We want to identify what the communities are doing for solutions.”
Chung said he had experienced what life was like when what he ate lacked nutritional value. More than a year ago, the now slim Chung said he weighed nearly 300 pounds.
“That was because I lacked the proper nutrition, and i starved myself of what my body needed. Processed food was 24-7,” he said.
There was a moment of clarity, Chung said, when he realized the way he was eating was not what his body needed or wanted.
“From that point on I incorporated more fresh produce, I got the nutrients I needed, and it allowed me to accomplish things that I normally wouldn’t be able to,” he said. “Basically, we want these kids to be at that level.”
Emery said after visiting schools and organizations in the area, he and Chung noticed the unique issues communities in Perry County face that may keep them from being able to access fresh, more nutritious foods.
“You have unique challenges here, such as smaller populations and more isolated than places like Boston. But the challenges like fewer resources, increased need, are not unlike the other places we’ve visited,” he said.
Chung said they also noticed that school lunches may not be giving students exactly what they need nutritionally.
“We saw a lot of canned beans and frozen berries and hot dogs. Nothing that’s sustainable for these kids especially if they have after school programs they have to go to. They’re trying to sustain themselves on this lack of nutrition that’s not going to get them through what they need to do” he said.
Emery said he was told the main reason for these choices for school lunches was due to new nutritional standards in schools which require calorie counts to be lower but do not ensure the food given is actually nutritious.
“Putting this one rule, blanket statement, on everybody saying that well you’re going to eat less isn’t really helping anybody,” Emery said.
Chung added that though the area faces many unique challenges, the sense of community in the area is unlike any other place they had been to previously, making him certain that solutions for these issues of hunger and a lack of nutrition were more likely here than anywhere.
“One of the things that we both noticed was that because this particular area is such a tight-knit community, everything is within arms reach, the people really help each other out in stressful times, and we see that transfer over to the public school system as well,” he said. “It’s nice to see the sense of community that we’re not exactly used to from going through areas like Boston or Rhode Island, areas like that where the support is more spread out and it’s more scarce.”
Emery and Chung began their trip in Massachusetts in January and will finish in Maine in December. Emery said throughout the trip they will be fundraising in order to raise enough money to help a community in each state they visit combat the problem of hunger.
“Our goal is to raise $1 million by the time we finish, and when we get done that fund is going to be split 48 ways and then we’ll select projects from organizations, one in each state, to receive a portion of the funds, based on an agriculture based hunger solution, so it could be a community garden, a transportation solution, anything related to getting fresh produce out to the people who need it,” Emery said
Emery said any organization can submit projects to receive funds, and anyone who wants to donate can do so online at bit.ly/ACP-Donate.
Amelia Holliday can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.