Uncle Herb's Team
On a typical distribution day at the ACRS Food Bank in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District, the counter inside the food bank is covered with packages of dried noodles, vegetables, canned goods and bags filled with rice. Paper grocery bags line the floor in rows along the wall, ready to be handed out.
The work of ACRS caught Herb Tsuchiya’s eye 29 years ago, when the long line of people outside the ACRS Food Bank concerned Tsuchiya, who joined forces with his wife Bertha and friend Sam Mitsui to raise money to feed the hungry.
“I saw so many elderly, women and children who lacked adequate food,” said Tsuchiya. For Herb and Bertha Tsuchiya and Sam Mitsui, rice became their main cause. “In 1990, Herb and I, along with Asian church members, gathered at the ACRS office on Jackson Street to determine how we could help raise funds for the ACRS Food Bank. Herb came up with the idea to sponsor a walk to raise the funds, hence, our title Walk for Rice was born,” said Mitsui.
A“Our first Walk for Rice started at the Chinese Baptist Church and our 2.5 mile walk was on the pedestrian path on Beacon Avenue,” recalled Mitsui.
As a brand new event, Walk for Rice raised $1,800 in 1990; 45 people signed up for the fundraiser.
In recent years, Walk for Rice has raised between $200,000 to $300,000 in donations each year, with close to 1,000 walkers, runners and volunteers participating.
“I’m surprised how much it has grown. It started with three people with one idea and over the years has grown tremendously,” said Karen Jackel, director of the ACRS Food Bank the last 27 years.
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,” said Tsuchiya, whose fundraising team is “Uncle Herb’s Team” this year.
Tsuchiya has every Walk for Rice t-shirt from over the years. Before t-shirts, there were buttons with the event name printed on them. He has those, too.
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, Chinese Community Girls Drill Team, and the walk or run around Seward Park.
The mission of the ACRS Food Bank is simple and basic to the core: provide food to those in need. Fight hunger in the Asian Pacific Islander community. ACRS distributed 760,778 pounds of food in 2018, and 5,356 clients visited the food bank that year.
Excerpted from "The Origins of Walk for Rice" by Dean Wong, published in International Examiner, May 23, 2019.