Rita Losee, 79, of West Bath hopes to raise $48,000 for Good Shepherd Food Bank by getting outside to exercise for 5 miles every day from Jan. 1 to March 21.

Losee’s goal is nearly identical to a fundraiser she organized last year in which she hiked 5 miles every day from Jan. 1 to March 21. She hoped to raise $50,000 last year but raised about $2,500 for the Auburn-based food bank, according to Losee.

Rita Losee celebrates completing her Hike for Health fundraiser on March 21, 2021. Contributed

This year, Losee said she would walk, run, hike or snowshoe — “whatever I’m doing to move my feet across the Earth” — to meet her goal.

Losee said she was motivated to conduct another “Soaring Seniors Hike for Health” fundraiser and hold herself to an exercising goal as a way to “recognize how challenging the last few years have been” and do something to help her fellow Mainers.

“It’s one thing to have a brief stressful period, but we’re going on two years of stress because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Losee. “For me, going outside and walking is a great stress reliever, and feeling like I’m making a contribution really buoys my spirit.”

Losee said she chose to raise money for the Good Shepherd Food Bank specifically because she wants to help provide hearty, healthy meals for the one in eight Mainers, and one in six Maine children, who are experiencing food insecurity.

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“Too much of the population in Maine is food insecure,” said Losee. “I don’t see how anyone can be healthy if they’re anxious about where their food is going to come from. If I can help other people acquire better food, I’m there.”

Just over 12% of Mainers were food insecure before the COVID-19 pandemic, but at the height of the pandemic, that number jumped to nearly 15%, according to the Good Shepherd Food Bank. The organization anticipated Maine’s hunger rate would level off at 13.5% by the end of 2021.

Food insecurity can hold serious problems aside from empty cupboards and going to bed hungry. Those who struggle to put food on the table are more susceptible to chronic diseases and health conditions including asthma, diabetes, mental health issues, hypertension and obesity, according to a 2019 Needs Assessment report from Sagadahoc County.

Good Shepherd Food Bank Director of Marketing and Communications Jessica Donahue said the nonprofit is grateful for Losee’s efforts because it comes at a time when the organization typically sees a drop in donations.

“After the holidays, when food banks typically receive fewer donations, we are grateful for fundraisers like Rita’s Soaring Seniors Hike for Health virtual food drive, which helps the Food Bank and our network of over 500 partner agencies ensure families across the state have access to the nutritious foods they need to thrive,” Donahue said.

In addition to raising money for the Good Shepherd Food Bank, Losee said she hopes to encourage people of all ages to exercise and stay healthy.

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Rita Losee of West Bath takes a break during an August 2020 hike. She is planning an exercise-based fundraiser this year to benefit Good Shepherd Food Bank. Contributed

“I want people to look at me and think, ‘If she can do that, I wonder what I can do?’” she said.

Cate Parker, Director of Community Health and Wellness at Mid Coast Hospital, said exercising regularly, even if it’s something as simple as walking, is one of the best things people can do for their health.

“Regardless of anyone’s age, gender, weight or general state of wellbeing, there is overwhelming evidence that exercise increases your physical and mental health,” Parker said. “Research shows that 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three to five times a week changes your brain chemistry, which makes people feel happier. It also improves people’s energy, helps with bone density, maintains blood sugar, helps with back pain and improves balance.”

Parker said consistent exercise helps treat many chronic illnesses and diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, fibromyalgia and Parkinson’s disease.

While she recommends exercising outside, Parker said people should take time to warm up, dress appropriately, watch for icy spots, and stay hydrated in the winter. If the air temperature is below 5 degrees Fahrenheit, Parker recommended exercising indoors because the risk of developing frostbite significantly increases.

Additionally, Parker encouraged anyone with a medical condition to check with a doctor before exercising.

Online donations to Losee’s fundraiser can be made at gsfb.org/donate/vfd/?id=4692


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