By Janet Bresenham, Freedom New Mexico
Roberto Mancusi does more than just talk the talk about the problem of hunger in New Mexico.
He walks the walk.
Mancusi, a member of First United Methodist Church of Portales, plans to lead a 20-mile Walk to Fight Hunger on May 30 from Clovis to Portales.
Between now and then, he’s taking one-time and per-mile pledges, raising funds and collecting food for the Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico and the Portales Dream Center.
Mancusi, a vocal music professor who has lived in Portales for about four years, said his motivation for the walk came after learning about the extent of New Mexico’s hunger problem.
“I know one walk isn’t going to take care of the problem, but if it raises awareness and keeps places like the Food Bank and the Dream Center on people’s minds and hearts, to me, that’s so valuable,” Mancusi said.
New Mexico ranks second in the nation for the highest percentage of hungry people and third in the nation for childhood poverty, according to hunger statistics compiled by the N.M. Association of Food Banks.
“New Mexico is at the top of a list we don’t want to be at the top of,” Mancusi said. “When I went on a recent tour of the Food Bank in Clovis, I noticed there are more empty shelves because there aren’t enough donations. It’s sad to see.”
His pastor, the Rev. Jeff Symonds, said he has been very aware of the state’s hunger problem from his many years serving throughout New Mexico.
“I thought it was fantastic that Robert wanted to do this Walk to Fight Hunger,” Symonds said. “The people in our church said they wanted to help support Robert’s mission. He’s got a wonderful, big heart and a wonderful gift for helping others.”
Mancusi said his mission to walk in a fight against hunger also had its roots in his own personal mission to get into better shape.
Last summer, Mancusi, 36, contemplated gastric bypass surgery to try to lose weight.
Instead, he began walking on July 15, starting with three-quarters of a mile from his home to his office in the ENMU Music Building.
By the end of February, Mancusi said he had lost 109 pounds by slowly adding to his daily walks and making lifestyle changes, with an average of four miles per day.
Now, he’s stepping up the pace in preparation for his Walk to Fight Hunger by training about 14-16 miles at least every other day.
“I had lost about 86 pounds by Christmas, and I decided that when I got to my goal weight, I would do a walk to raise awareness about the problem of hunger in New Mexico,” Mancusi said.
Although Mancusi still wants to shed another 90 pounds, he decided to proceed with the Walk to Fight Hunger because he and his wife and their three young children will be leaving Portales later this summer for a new job with the University of Tennessee.
Symonds said pledge forms are available in the lobby of his church because “we’re hoping other people will join Robert for even a part of the walk.”