HATFIELD, Mass. (WWLP)– The 12th annual Monty’s March has ended and raised $508,000 to support organizations that provide food to people dealing with food insecurity.

 Monte Belmonte, radio personality at WRSI 939-the River, lead Monte’s March, the 43-mile, two-day walk through Western Massachusetts on November 22 and 23. The theme for the March was End Hunger Now! He was joined by hundreds of supporters along the way, including Congressman Jim McGovern who uses the phrase in his efforts as a national anti-hunger advocate.

 The goal of the event is to raise awareness of hunger and food insecurity and provide funds for healthy meals to 105,000 individuals at risk of hunger in the region monthly. The money raised will provide more than 2 million meals locally. All proceeds from Monte’s March benefit The Food Bank and its emergency food network, consisting of 175 food pantries and meals sites in all four counties of Western Massachusetts.

“When we started this 12 years ago, we tried to raise $5,000, and we got $12,000. It’s beyond my wildest imagination that we’ve gotten to this point,” said Belmonte, “and I’m extremely grateful and humbled by the generosity of this community. People rose to the challenge to make 2 million meals happen by raising a half a million dollars for The Food Bank of Western Mass.”

Monte’s March kicked-off at Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Services in Springfield, where Ronn Johnson, President and CEO of the organization, described how his staff and volunteers assisted a new arrival to the community with comprehensive services, including food. He also thanked marchers for helping to provide nutritious meals to the Mason Square community it serves. MLK Family Services is a member of the region’s emergency food network, providing healthy groceries through its food pantry and hosting a bi-weekly Mobile Food Bank site.

Chris Kelly, CEO of MGM Springfield, presented The Food Bank with a $2,500 contribution. Congressman Richard Neal offered his encouragement for Monte’s Marchers as they began their 17-mile trek to Northampton for Day One of the event. Chicopee Mayor Vieau welcomed the marchers to Chicopee – where The Food Bank will build its future food distribution center and headquarters. Along the way, the group, including State Senator Adam Hinds, also stopped at Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen in Chicopee and Kate’s Kitchen in Holyoke, both partners with The Food Bank.

 Andrew Morehouse, Food Bank Executive Director, who also marched the entire distance, reflected on the two-day journey, “I’m always in awe of the generosity and commitment of so many individuals and businesses across our region who rally behind this event to buoy our neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet during these difficult times.”

Day Two of Monte’s March began in front of Congressman McGovern’s Northampton District Office. State Representatives Lindsay Sabadosa, Natalie Blais, Dan Carey, and Paul Marks joined dozens of marchers for 26 miles through Hampshire and Franklin Counties, stopping at Amherst Survival Center and Berkshire Brewing Company, which has been a generous supporter of The Food Bank for decades, and Atlas Farm, the largest donor of fresh produce to The Food Bank, before concluding in Greenfield. Hawkes & Reed hosted a pay-what-you-can Finish Line Feast for the community.