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Stories From Main Street: In 30th Year, Hungerthon Needed More Than Ever, Organizers Say

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Forty years ago, singer-songwriter Harry Chapin and radio host Bill Ayres pledged to make a difference in the world.

"Harry and I made a commitment to spend the rest of our lives fighting hunger and poverty," Ayres told WCBS 880's Sean Adams. "We didn't know at the time, of course, that his was going to be so short."

They started World Hunger Year, now known as WhyHunger.

"Why is there hunger in the richest country in the history of the world?" Ayres asked.

Harry Chapin later enlisted the help of his brother, Tom, also a musician, who has been involved ever since.

"This is the thing I may be most proud of -- that I got dragged into this 40 years ago by my crazy older brother, the dreamer, Harry Chapin," Tom Chapin said.

The 30th annual Hungerthon will be held Tuesday on WCBS 880. For more information, visit

Over the years, the money raised funded the New York City Hunger Hotline, a phone number people would call if they were hungry.

"And that was great except we found out there were no places to go," Ayres said. "There were 28 emergency food providers in all of New York City. Guess how many there are now. Twelve hundred."

Ayres says today they are seeing a lot more working poor.

"The minimum wage needs to rise," he said. "We need more living-wage jobs. Also, the cost of housing has gone up dramatically."

Tom Chapin says they focus on nutrition, too.

"Who is growing our food? What kind of food are we eating? Because there are food deserts in many neighborhoods in New York, where you can't get healthy food, and you find people who are really facing hunger end up having diabetes and stuff because they're eating stuff that's cheap and available."

For the 30th Hungerthon, there's plenty up for bid.

"A lot of sports items that we've gotten from WFAN, a whole bunch of items from CBS 880, including going to lunch with Charlie Osgood, Joe Connolly," Ayres said.

"Everybody .... can be part of this team that's doing good work toward the light," Tom Chapin said.

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