Rhode Island musicians and other generous individuals support longstanding effort

CRANSTON – When singer/songwriter Allison Rose takes the stage at Artists’ Exchange collaborative January 11 for a concert with other musicians, she will be doing more than performing.

As she has before, she will be supporting a grass-roots campaign, the “1 of 52 Hunger Network,” which aims to end food insecurity in Rhode Island and beyond. Concert proceeds will benefit the campaign.

“I first learned of the ‘1 of 52 Hunger Network’ through my late father, Bill McGrath,” Rose said in a recent interview.

Allison Rose – Submitted photo

“He produced many live music shows around Rhode Island and very often collaborated with Steve Maciel, a leader of ‘1 of 52,’ to collect donations to support the cause. Steve does great work through this organization, and I’m always happy and honored to play even a small part in that.”

Maciel, who founded the network in 1988, told Ocean State Stories it “asks folks to use their talent to take one action in one week of the year annually to support existing hunger organizations to help end hunger. You become one of 52 others in your community all working toward the same goal of creating food-secure communities. There are no fees to join us; all we seek is annual action.”

That action, said Maciel, a West Greenwich resident and marketer by profession, can be “simple food drives at an event or party up to staging elaborate benefit events and any action in between. One hundred percent of all actions or donations go directly to the hunger organizations of the member’s choice. Members decide who to help and how to help.”

The overall concept, Maciel said, “is a strength-in-numbers strategy to bring mass attention and action directly to the existing solutions of ending hunger. The network started in Rhode Island and now there are networks in several other states. We’ve directed tens of thousands in donations, tons of food, and untold awareness.”

The Rhode Island Community Food Bank is one such “existing solution” that has benefitted from Maciel’s organization.

“The ‘1 of 52’ hunger relief network builds strength through grassroots empowerment,” Food Bank CEO Andrew Schiff said. “They encourage people to be active in donating their talent, time, and money to help food assistance programs. They inspire people to advocate for policy changes that are the most effective way to end hunger.

“The Rhode Island Community Food Bank has benefitted from the network’s generosity over the years and from their mobilizing efforts that build the public will to end hunger.”

Andrew Schiff inside the R.I. Community Food Bank warehouse – G. Wayne Miller / Ocean State Stories

The Jonnycake Center for Hope, which serves South County, also is indebted to the “1 of 52 Hunger Network.” CEO Kate Brewster told Ocean State Stories that it “has benefitted for years from the work of ‘1 of 52’. Local events that feature music, like Wakefield’s summer RiverFire series, participate and collect food for our pantry.  The food donations help keep the shelves stocked, especially during this time of increased need, and the awareness that is raised by connecting live music and food insecurity is extremely valuable. It reminds people that the problem exists in their backyard and gives them a simple way to help their neighbors.

Kate Brewster – Submitted photo

“Last year, 1860 people from South Kingstown, Narragansett, Block Island and Jamestown visited our food pantry, known as the Jonnycake Market.  The number of visits were up fifty percent compared to the year before.  It has become increasingly difficult for us to put food on the shelves as we purchase approximately 40 % of the food we distribute.  Therefore, every donation from someone in the community is an immense help to getting food to those in need. Donations can also be really nice because of the variety of items we might receive, as opposed to when we bulk purchase an item.”

Grant Maloy Smith, a Billboard Top 10 recording artist and songwriter, will be joining Allison Rose on stage Thursday. Originally from Florida, he has lived in Rhode Island for much of his life.

Grant Maloy Smith – Submitted photo

“I met Steve Maciel years ago, and was happy to perform in Rhode Island and Connecticut at shows that benefited ‘1 of 52,’ ” Smith told Ocean State Stories. Since then, he also has performed in Florida for the Network.

Maciel, Smith said, “has dedicated his life to fighting the hunger crisis.”

Like others who have joined the effort, Smith said his philanthropy extends beyond ending food insecurity. “Whenever I can connect my music and performances to a worthy cause, I am happy and proud to do it,” he said.

Eric Behr and Leah Guanipa will also be performing with Smith and Rose at Artists’ Exchange collaborative on January 11.

Recalling the 1988 roots of “1 of 52,” Maciel said “it began with my observation of the connection between music and the cause of ending hunger dating back to the 1972 Concerts for Bangladesh by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, then concerts and recordings up through the years with Live Aid 1&2, We Are the World, Band Aid, Farm Aid, Artists Against Hunger & Poverty (WHY), and many more organizations and artists.”

Steve Maciel – Submitted photo

Thus inspired, Maciel said he “decided to further forge this link between music and the cause of ending hunger, and though I’m a dreamer, I knew I’d never be able to stage events of this magnitude. And really, why would I try? It’s been done and done so well. I thought ‘What can I do? What is within my power? How about organizing something that is much more grassroots. Something virtually anyone can participate in. Something ongoing and cumulative. Why not something happening every week of the year?’”

Maciel said he mentioned this to a musician friend, who said “ ‘Hell, I’m playing a gig next week and I’ll donate to the cause!’ And boom, we were up-and-running. Starting with this first donation, we began adding more artists and folks from all walks of life who committed to annual action and organized them on a website.”

Two years later, the founder oversaw creation of the “Time is Now to End Hunger” benefit compilation, which featured songs by Pete Seeger and John Cafferty, among others. He also joined HungerDown, an initiative whose “objective is to work with all segments of the local and state communities to develop, consider, or assist with initiatives that substantially enhance hunger relief and food security efforts throughout Rhode Island,” according to Maciel.

Maciel said his broad ambition “is to have a core network of 52 in each state in the U.S., each representing one week. Since the members are responsible for their own actions — what we call ‘dispersed responsibility’ — we hope the network will self-perpetuate. We do go as far as asking folks up when they sign up that when they are no longer able to participate, they voluntarily pass their week of the year along to someone else.”

Allison Rose’s father, Bill McGrath,  died in 2021 of COVID. His obituary described him evocatively as “an authentic human who felt like an old friend after just one conversation. The kind of guy who would drop everything to run your errand if you’re homebound, pick you up off the side of the road if you’re stranded, or go miles out of his way to deliver you your favorite pastry — just because.”

The elder Rose passed that generosity to his daughter, something she says inclined her toward “1 of 52.”

As for her own music, Rose said “I write honest songs and simply hope they connect with the people who need to hear them.” Her music has been compared to that of other artists like Sara Bareilles, Emmylou Harris, and Joni Mitchell.

“I typically perform solo, and play guitar, piano, and occasionally ukulele,” she said. “I recently released a full-length album, ‘All the Difference,’ and am currently working on recording a new collection of songs, inspired by the grief process following the death of my Dad.”

The January 11 “1 of 52” benefit begins at 7 p.m. at Artists’ Exchange, 50 Rolfe St., Cranston. The all-acoustic show will feature original songs and is hosted by Rose. Future events can be found on the Hunger Network Facebook page.