WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Hot muggy weather didn’t stop the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts from taking a stand against hunger in the local community. Hosting its annual “Walk to End Hunger” for the 7th year.

“So today we’re actually going to be walking,” said Mohammed Dastigir, President of the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts. “Everybody who’s here, plus a bunch of folks that couldn’t be here have donated to our local parish cupboard.”

According to Feeding America, an estimated 8% of Massachusetts residents face food insecurity. Meaning they do not have reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food. Experts believe the pandemic increased the number of people in America, without sufficient access to food. From 35 million in 2019 to 42 million in 2021. That figure includes 13 million children.

Huthaifah Abbasi and Khadeejah Abbasi of the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts told 22News, “That really affects me and that shouldn’t be the case. It’s really sad to think little kids come home and go to bed hungry. A lot of kids, the only meal they have is just at school.”

The Mayor of West Springfield joined in on the walk and told 22News the need has grown in his community over the last two years.

Mayor Will Reichelt said, “It really has gotten worse because a lot of things we use to do, the farmers markets and some of the other support we had, evaporated with COVID so just like this walk, we’re rebuilding what we had before and building on that momentum. So we’re bringing it back, but the need has definitely expanded.”

Every year the Islamic Society’s walk raises over $5,000 to benefit local food pantries.