MYSTIC — With participation from 16 local churches from North Stonington to Groton, the 40th annual Mystic Area CROP Hunger Walk stepped off Sunday afternoon from St. Mark Episcopal Church to bring attention to food insecurity across the globe.The walk has been a consistent source of funding to Church World Service since 1977. More than 50 walkers made the six-mile roundtrip to Noank Baptist Church and back to Pearl Street in downtown, starting the walk to musical accompaniment provided by trumpeters from Mystic Middle School playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” after speeches by the event’s organizer, Julia Porter, and St. Mark’s Rector, Adam Thomas. Stacey Kohl, Curate at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, noted that preparation for the walk begins in August by recruiting walkers and sponsors, as well as soliciting donations. She said she was proud that the Walk, and similar events during the year, are a churchwide effort, spanning all generations of parishioners.In her eyes, the Walk is a “reminder to ourselves personally that not everyone can hop in the car and run down the road to Big Y or Stop and Shop to get their food. Some people may have to walk up to 15 miles and, even then, don’t know if there’s going to be food at the end. So, for us, actually physically putting our feet on the ground is a reminder to be mindful of these issues in the world.” Kohl noted that in addition to Church World Service, their parish has been supporting the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund, which has recently assisted with recent disasters. When asked about the value of interfaith community, regarding both this event and in general, she said “I think the value of the interfaith community is incredibly high. This is a period in the world where there’s a lot of divisiveness, so anytime we can come together as followers of Christ and say, ‘We may not agree on every issue, but it doesn’t matter, because we agree that love wins, that love always wins’. And seeing people from different churches in the area come together, step up together — that makes it even better.”Kohl, who has been with St. Mark’s since July, looks forward to collaborating with other churches and parishes in the future on similar community projects.The CROP Walk, which raised $12,500 last year, is organized by the Mystic Area Ecumenical Council. Vice Chair Neil Kluepfel, who has been involved with the event for over 30 years, was proud to share that their walk had grown to more than 80 participants in 2016, and is looking forward to further growth. “It’s a very healthy thing for people in Christian churches to work together,” Kluepfel said. The walk not only supports Church World Service, but each year earmarks 25 percent of funds collected for local social services organizations. The Council has recently supported the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center and the Groton Human Services Department. Funds collected this year will likely be distributed to victims of recent disasters in Texas, and Puerto Rico, and to provide clean water to areas in need. In addition to sponsoring walkers, the Council also accepts private donations via check, or donations directly through their website.