- Associated Press - Monday, February 20, 2017

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) - After she was downsized from her job at a Florida power company, the issues of hunger and poverty hit home for Jess Kurti.

“I was a meter reader and our jobs were being automated with new, statewide upgrades in technology. Many of my co-workers, who had done everything right, were now struggling. Some had underwater mortgages. Many began working two or three jobs to replace the salary from one job, this time without retirement and benefits. Uprooting their families was not possible, because crucial support systems would be lost. I was beginning to understand the ripple effect from a crashing economy and what the face of hunger in my community really looked like,” Kurti said.

Kurti, of Orlando, Florida, recently spent a day volunteering at Harvest Texarkana’s food bank, the Texarkana Gazette (https://bit.ly/2lkzXWC ) reported. The visit was part of her goal of volunteering at every food bank in the Feeding America network nationwide. She now has less than 40 remaining.

Her mission is to raise awareness of food banks and their fight against hunger and poverty, which she calls the “Beast of Burden Challenge.”

“In November of 2012, I was downsized from Florida Power and Light. I took an eight-month road trip across the U.S and returned to Orlando knowing I wanted to change my life. I wanted a purpose-driven life, a life of service over self. So I registered for an information session and a tour at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.

She became a regular volunteer at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, logging as many hours as possible. At a volunteer appreciation lunch in July of 2014, she asked the president and CEO, Dave Krepcho, if anyone ever volunteered at all the food banks in the Feeding America network. The answer was “No.”

“My answer was, “I think I’m going to do that,” Kurti said.

One in seven people struggle with hunger in the U.S.

“I believe that each person can make a difference for our neighbors in need, by volunteering, donating food, or donating money. I travel now to prove this point by volunteering my time and learning from each food bank,” she said.

In addition to her anti-hunger work, Kurti started running marathons with a real commitment. Before being downsized, she had run six marathons.

“During my road trip, the leader of my training group, the TriJunkies, told me about the 50 State Marathon Club. Traveling so much allowed me to start checking off states in which I’d run marathons and visit each Feeding America food bank,” she said.

Anyone wanting information on the “Beast of Burden Challenge” can visit Kurti’s facebook page of the same name.

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Information from: Texarkana Gazette, https://www.texarkanagazette.com


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