Walkers Make Strides in Fight Against Hunger

Under a pewter sky, they walked.

Some had canteens slung jauntily across their hips. Some were old, others young, some trim and a few a bit fuller around the middle. Most wore identical shirts, and they all walked for the same reason: to help the needy.

Fifty-one people turned out Saturday for the fourth annual Hike Against Hunger, a 30-mile, two-day trek from Ventura to Santa Barbara along the Pacific Coast Highway. The walk benefits Food Share, a nonprofit regional food bank that distributes food to the poor.

"It's a perfect day for walking," said 31-year-old Camarillo resident Caresse Santana, Food Share's spokeswoman. "Not too hot, just right."

The hike's participants, who collect pledges from individuals to pay them by the mile, were scattered along a quarter-mile stretch of the highway Saturday morning as they headed for the Follow Your Heart restaurant in Santa Barbara. Santana said the average pledge per mile was about $1, and the highest was $12.

The group broke for lunch in La Conchita, where Nancy Mitchell said there was a good burger stand. Mitchell, along with her husband Bill, inaugurated the hike four years ago.

"We were out walking by the ocean and it was so beautiful, we thought 'Why don't we do this to raise money?' " she said. The Mitchells are volunteers with Food Share.

Organizers hope the trek will raise $15,000. A motor home creeps alongside the brigade, offering rides, water and snacks.

Santana said those who are walking the entire 30 miles would spend Saturday night in Carpinteria and arrive in Santa Barbara today about noon.

"It's great," she said, looking forward to the evening in Carpinteria. "We can't wait to get there, go out and party."

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