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Dispatch: Touring with Purpose to Eliminate Hunger

Activist Band Takes Crusade Against Food Insecurity to New York

On a cold night near Boston earlier this year, fans of the band Dispatch gathered in the living room of frontman and human rights activist Chad Stokes, buzzing with anticipation about the intimate, acoustic set they were about to experience.

Just 30 minutes earlier, they had been waiting in line on snow-covered ground along his red picket fence in the suburb of Jamaica Plain, sharing stories of advocacy and volunteer work, and singing

Some have been fans since they heard the band's anti-war anthem, "The General," in 1998. Others picked up an interest after Dispatch's 2011 reunion tour. What brought them together tonight was more than just music. The lyrics "Mama, I'm so hungry" from Bats in the Belfry resonated a bit more because the evening was focused on children whose families couldn't put enough food on the table.

"We felt like hunger was a hidden topic," Stokes said. "In a country so wealthy, how can so many be going hungry every day?"

Singing Against Hunger

The event was the first in the group's DISPATCH: HUNGER tour, an initiative aimed at combating food insecurity in America. According to the advocacy group No Kid Hungry, nearly one in five U.S. children – 16 million of them – live in households that struggle to put food on the table.

“It's a problem that isn't solved by charity," says Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

He spoke to Dispatch fans that evening in Stokes's living room, emphasizing the importance of advocacy over donation. "[Dispatch] could have said 'bring a can,'" Berg told the crowd. But they went much bigger.

The band is set to take the stage at Madison Square Garden on Friday, July 10 and Saturday, July 11, to shine a light on hunger issues in the United States.

A History of Activism

In 2007, Dispatch sold out three nights at Madison Square Garden for DISPATCH: ZIMBABWE, an effort to fight disease, famine and social injustice in the African country.

The band, and its fans, have a long history of activism. Stokes started Calling All Crows with his wife in 2008. It's a nonprofit that organizes events, rallies local communities and uses service as a solution to combat issues like poverty, education, gender issues, education and environmentalism.

"Nothing beats getting face-to-face and getting hands dirty together," Stokes says.

As part of the DISPATCH: HUNGER initiative, fans have the opportunity to participate in events and volunteer activities with the Center for Hunger-Free Communities, New York City Coalition Against Hunger, No Kid Hungry and WhyHunger. Fans can also sign up to join street teams to spread the word, pass out flyers and promote awareness.

"I'm thrilled that the band really gets it," Berg said. "Food drives are really nice. Showing up at a soup kitchen is nice. It's going to take a lot more than that to end hunger."

Learn more about the DISPATCH: HUNGER initiative, and watch a video about the night of music and learning at Chad Stokes' House.

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