Jess Kurti found herself faced with a situation many Americans across the country deal with everyday – food insecurity, described by Jess as a “Beast of Burden”.

Jess and her co-workers all lost their jobs at a utilities company in South Florida in November 2012. They faced decisions no one in this country should have to face, such as deciding on what to pay for when you have no or little income coming in. Do they pay their bills, rent, medications or food? This especially becomes worrisome for people with families and children.  

“My whole department was made obsolete due to technology upgrades”, Jess said. “I just saw a lot of fear and worries for my co-workers. I know it’s a common experience with a lot of Americans, worrying about how they’re going to pay their bills, how they are going to feed their children.”

Jess Kurdi - Beast of Burden Trinity CafeThe saying goes ‘When one door closes, another door opens’. That’s exactly what happened to Jess. Losing her job made her think about the impact it had on her and her co-workers and the struggles they now face. “That kind of prompted me to become more aware of what people do when they have to make tough choices. That’s what started me getting invested in learning about hunger across the country”, Jess explained.

She was now on a mission to end world hunger, er… well, to at least make people more aware of the hunger issues many people and families face today. She had the idea of creating more awareness of hunger issues by traveling across the country to visit EVERY food bank in America, initiating her “Beast of Burden Challenge” project.

The Beast of Burden is my hunger awareness campaign which I started in July 2014. Like many people, I had misconceptions of what hunger looked like, not only in the community but country-wide. So I wanted to educate the general public about Feeding America and its incredible network of food banks and how they are fighting hunger.”, Jess Kurti

So far, her journey has taken her all across the country, with Feeding Tampa Bay and Trinity Cafe being stop number 192 out of the 200 food bank locations. Jess spent one afternoon this week helping to serve guests lunch at Trinity Cafe’s Nebraska Avenue location. In addition to her hunger awareness campaign, Jess is also on target to finish 100 marathons when she finally reaches her goal of visiting all 200 food bank locations.

Jess also had lots of lessons learned along the way and she is more than happy to share those experiences with all the people she meets. “What I’ve come to realize, is that hunger insecurities has so many facets and runs across so many demographics. There are veterans and people active in the military that are experiencing hunger, there are food insecure children, there are seniors and there are people with disabilities who cannot work.”

“Food insecurity is an incredibly complex issue”, continued Jess. “When I heard the number of 46 million Americans experiencing food insecurity, it’s hard to fathom, but it is happening right now! That’s the most eye-opening thing as how many are struggling with food insecurity.”

“One of the reasons I’m such a fierce advocate for Feeding America and the network of food banks is the vast majority of money they get, the vast amount of time that you put in, goes right back into the community. The transparency is like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

Jess continues to spread the word and tries to reach out to as many people and organizations as possible. “I guess my take home message is that it takes so little to help. Whether you donate time, whether you donate money, whether you host your own food or fund drive, every little bit helps. Every little bit goes back to the community”.  

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