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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

The Visalia Emergency Aid Council’s Race Against Hunger

Oct 25, 2017 11:00AM ● By Kendra Kaiserman

Turkey Trot

November 2017
Story by Kendra Kaiserman
Photos courtesy of the Visalia Emergency Aid Council

Step back in time to the 1930s. Imagine you are living in the South Valley. You have heard about the recent Dust Bowls in the Midwest on the radio, and maybe even on a television. Dust Bowl refugees are fleeing to this area and all over California. This is when the Visalia Emergency Aid Council emerged, as a group of concerned Visalians organized the relief efforts in 1931.

Today, the Visalia Emergency Aid Council is a food pantry that supplies supplemental groceries to 1,100 families a month who come to the pantry an average of three or four times a year. It also helps 150 seniors on a fixed income who come to the pantry every month. The Aid Council also holds events, such as the Evening on the Red Carpet, which just wrapped up its second year in October. Local and national celebrities alike attend this event. “It’s an opportunity to raise money for the food pantry and have a good time,” says Liz Wynn, executive director of the Visalia Emergency Aid Council. Other events include holiday drives, canned food drives and the Turkey Transit Singers, in which singers take the city transit trolley and perform funny Thanksgiving songs at different businesses. Some 800 Thanksgiving baskets and 1,200 Christmas baskets are given out each year to “let families eat together and kind of do the things many of us kind of take for granted,” says Wynn.

Perhaps the biggest and longest fundraiser put on by the Visalia Emergency Aid Council is the Race Against Hunger, which is in its 13th year and occurs each Thanksgiving morning in downtown Visalia. “It was the brainstorm of a local DJ, who thought it would be fun to do something to educate the public on hunger,” Wynn says. “Every year it’s just grown and grown and grown.” Last year, about 5,300 walkers and runners participated. “There are families that have been going for 13 years,” says Wynn. The event has evolved into an event for the whole family, and includes a kids zone, food trucks and booths. “It’s a party atmosphere – it’s a lot of fun,” Wynn says. The chipped, official race begins at 8 am at Garden Street Plaza and is a loop.

The race could not be put on without the help of more than 200 volunteers. “We have a crew that starts in March. A lot of businesses participate, and almost 700 teachers and their family members participated last year,” says Wynn. 

People can run in the race, put together a team or bring canned food “to help us pay for a new pantry that will include an extra 60 square feet of space,” Wynn says. And if you can’t participate on the day of the race because you’re preparing for Thanksgiving dinner, the Visalia Emergency Aid Council is looking for volunteers throughout the year. “Our thrift store is a really critical part of our program,” says Wynn. “Gently used items would be appreciated.” They even do free pick up. 

Wynn’s favorite part of the Race Against Hunger is “it’s an opportunity to see a lot of old friends, the atmosphere is so upbeat, people don’t mind the crowds. There are people walking their dogs, people pushing their strollers – it’s a wonderful event and all for a good cause.”

Visalia Emergency Aid Council

(559) 732-0101 •

Race Against Hunger 5k and 2 Mile Walk, November 23 from 8 am-11 am in downtown Visalia.