Running towards a Western Massachusetts without hunger

WAMDAOn Sunday, March 8, hundreds of runners of all ages and skill levels will gather at Look Park in Florence and participate in a fun day of exercise to help make a difference in the community. For the past 22 years, the Western Area Massachusetts Dietetic Association (WAMDA) has held a 5k Run and Health Fair during National Nutrition Month. The event is a fundraiser to benefit The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Since their first race in 1993, WAMDA have raised more than $33,800 to help feed our neighbors in need.

WAMDA is a voluntary non-profit association through which local dieticians support each other professionally and spread the word about who dieticians are and what they do. For WAMDA, part of promoting optimal nutrition and well-being in our community is taking a stand against hunger.

Whether you are a serious athlete or prefer to walk the 3 miles around the park, you will fit right in. There are cash prizes for first place for both men and women and also prizes for runners by age group if you are feeling competitive. At the end of the day, everyone is a winner for helping make sure our neighbors have access to nutritious food.

“One thing we’re really concerned with is food security and making sure there is good nutrition for people of all backgrounds,” says WAMDA member Lisa Wilby, who organizes the run. “It’s not just buying the food — it’s knowing what food to eat. The education that both WAMDA and The Food Bank provide makes a big difference in people’s lives.”

Hunger is not just about lack of food; it’s also about lack of nutritious food. The Food Bank’s nutrition program works to provide numerous resources to our partner agencies and their clients including taste tests, cooking demonstrations, and distributing healthy recipes at our Mobile Food Bank and Brown Bag: Food for Elders locations. They also teach clients how to make delicious meals with unfamiliar vegetables, such as beets and squash.

WAMDA shares this passion for education. Their run is unique from other races in that it features a Health Fair inside Look Park’s heated Garden House, complete with a post-race meal. The Health Fair is open to the public, which means that even while the runners are out, the Garden House is bustling with activity. This year, dieticians will be available to discuss sports nutrition, nutrition’s role in long term care, how to navigate the grocery store, and more. Runners will have the opportunity to have their blood pressure taken and discuss their gate with a professional.  Available once again this year will be the ever-popular chair massage station.

“The goal of everyone in nutrition is to educate people how to make healthier choices,” says Diane Alpern, Nutrition Coordinator at The Food Bank, and a WAMDA member. “Our hope is that more people hear this message so that when they are in the bread aisle they pick a whole wheat bread over a white bread. By helping the head of a household learn how to provide healthier foods at no higher cost we are able to positively impact the quality of children’s diets.”

The 22nd Annual WAMDA 5K Run/Walk will be held Sunday March 8, 2015 at Look Park in Florence. The Health Fair in the Garden House will begin prior to the race at 10 am. Runners will begin the race at 11am.

To register for the race, or to get more information, visit:

Runners will receive a free performance long sleeved t-shirt if they preregister by February 21st. Registration is open until March 1st. Registration costs $23 online and $30 in person.

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