Over a thousand community members came together on Saturday, June 27 for the annual Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) Walk for Rice, benefiting the ACRS Food Bank. Every year, the Walk draws approximately 1,000 community members who become fundraisers and take part in a community event featuring cultural celebrations and a 2.5 mile walk/run around Seattle’s Seward Park.
Walk for Rice turned 25 this year. “I saw so many elderly women and children who lacked adequate food…no one donated rice,” says Herb Tsuchiya a retired pharmacist, community activist and Walk for Rice co-founder. Together with his late wife, Bertha Tsuchiya and friend, Sam Mitsui, they founded and organized the first Walk for Rice, which took place in 1990 on Beacon Hill with just 45 walkers who raised $1,800. The event has become an annual mission as the region’s businesses, colleges, and generations of community groups and families return each year with fundraising teams with names like “Miso Miso Hungry” and “Food Bank Friends.” Tsuchiya credits Walk for Rice as a channel for their compassion. “It’s a community effort to help those in need to put food on the table,” Tsuchiya said. His regular fundraising team is CBC Hot Rice. Mitsui fondly remembers years people and their dogs wore costumes to Walk for Rice – an activity revived this year in honor of Sam and Herb, and their 25 year labor of love organizing this event every year since 1990.
Each Walk for Rice event is like a celebration to help the ACRS Food Bank. Even during the years when it rained, crowds still gathered for the taiko drummers, martial arts demonstrations, and Chinese Community Girls Drill Team, and the walk or run around Seward Park. “The memory I always have, is the generosity of the community. Because without them, this could never have happened…that always amazes me,” says Sam Mitsui.
This year, the walk has raised a record breaking $202,208.27 so far, and will continue to raise funds all year long. In between a traditional Chinese lion dance and warm-up exercises, Sam Mitsui and four generations of Herb Tsuchiya’s family were recognized for their contributions to the community with proclamations from the City of Seattle and Washington State House of Representatives and Senators. In honor of event founders, King County Executive Dow Constantine declared June 27, 2015 as Walk for Rice Day, and Governor Inslee and U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell sent greetings.
The Moriguchi family and Uwajimaya also received an award from ACRS for decades of in-kind support for their Chinatown/International District Food Bank. “Food donations from Uwajimaya have made the food bank the special it is for families of Asian American and Pacific Islander backgrounds to find foods they know from people they trust. Further, generations of the Moriguchi Family have formed fundraising teams for Walk for Rice, personally raising funds and promoting the needs facing the most vulnerable in our communities” said ACRS Board President Vinod Nazareth. Jason Loui’s Team Niko Niko has been at it for seventeen years, and Loui now brings his children.
The success of Walk for Rice is matched by the need for it. In 2014, the ACRS Food Bank distributed nearly 1 million pounds of culturally familiar and nutritious foods to more than 5,600 families. In total, clients make over 120,000 visits to the 700-square foot facility in the Chinatown/International District. Most of their 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 staples like rice, tofu, noodles, and fresh fruits and vegetables, which are purchased with proceeds from Walk for Rice.
Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization offering a broad array of human services and behavioral health programs to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in King County. ACRS promotes social justice and the well-being and empowerment of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and other underserved communities — including immigrants, refugees and American born — by developing, providing and advocating for innovative, effective and efficient community-based multilingual and multicultural services. (end)
For more information, visit www.acrs.org.