Hungerthon 2021: Tom Chapin carries on brother’s legacy fighting hunger, poverty 40 years after his death
By Neil A. Carousso, Wayne Cabot and Tom Kaminski
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Hunger and poverty is an issue made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, but WhyHunger believes it is solvable.
“Food is a right, not a privilege,” said musician Tom Chapin of the non-profit organization’s motto.
WhyHunger helped 1,036,065 people find access to nutritious food and essential services last year through their hotline and online resources. Through its COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund, it has mobilized $845,223 in emergency funding to 42 partner organizations and social movements across 8 countries.
Those rapid responses include distributing food, medications and PPE to vulnerable people, supporting food banks and pantries to meet rising demand during the pandemic, and developing the capacity of farmers to grow sustainable food while also developing a local distribution infrastructure.
“Almost 12 million children don’t know what they’re going to eat this week,” said Chapin. “Those numbers are drastic. The good news is, WhyHunger has been, since 1975, putting hungry people in touch with food, helping them towards self-reliance, and really, working toward food justice.”
As a board member, Tom Chapin has taken the mantle from his late brother Harry Chapin who founded WhyHunger in 1975 with radio DJ Bill Ayers. Harry tragically died in a car crash on July 16, 1981 on his way to a free benefit concert at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, Long Island.
“As Harry said when he was really a major star, ‘You know, it’s really cool I’m doing this, but being a rock star is not an end in itself,’” Tom Chapin recalled. “He always felt that he had a bully pulpit, which was pretty remarkable. I mean, you think about we talk about this guy now 40 years later and not even about the songs so much but about this idea that he had that so many other people have picked up and carried on. It’s kind of humbling and also just kind of magical.”
Annually through its Hungerthon auction and various partnerships, including with WCBS Newsradio 880 and the station’s parent company Audacy, WhyHunger brings together radio personalities and celebrities to raise money to put an end to hunger in America. Listeners can bid on exclusive in-person and virtual experiences, including a private concert from Chapin and his band.
“The real heroes here are not me,” he said, continuing, “It’s the people who have kept it going and the day-to-day people at WhyHunger and all of our partners – those are the real heroes here – and the people we’re talking to who open up their pocketbooks, and say, ‘Yeah, I want to be part of this. I want to help.’”
See how you can join the fight against hunger and poverty and get a sneak peek of Harry Chapin’s private concert auction item on the video above.