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Interview with Monte Belmonte on “The Hunger Issue in Western Mass” and More!

I recently sat down for an interview with Monte Belmonte the Host of NEPM’s new show, The Fabulous 413.

After 17 years hosting “Mornings with Monte” on 93.9 The River/WRSI, Monte Belmonte has joined New England Public Media to be host and executive producer of a new radio show and podcast celebrating life in western Massachusetts.

Monte has a strong background in radio broadcasting, community service, and fundraising, Belmonte brings a fresh and exciting perspective to NEPM’s programming. He is passionate about connecting with the community, promoting local culture, and fostering open discussions on pressing issues.

Connect with Monte Belmonte

For more information on all things Jimmy Tingle

Transcript – Please note, this Transcript is AI Generated. It has not had the discerning ears of a real human to edit it, as such, there are bound to be a few errors

Jimmy Tingle 0:05
Hello, everybody, welcome back to the Jimmy tingle show we have been off the air. We have been off the interwebs. For three months. We were gone in January, February and March. And we’re back this week with a very special guests we had, we really needed a rest. And we took some time off to reevaluate the show. And we are back, primarily focusing on nonprofits and how we can raise the profile of nonprofits and people who are doing really important work around the state of Massachusetts in the country. Today’s guest folks, I’m so excited to meet him. His name is Monte Belmonte. And he is the backbone of Western Massachusetts media, ladies and gentlemen, is such a character. First of all, he is the board president of the Shea Theater where I’ll be performing on April 1 April Fool’s night with Congressman Jim McGovern will be there and it is a fundraiser for the Franklin County community meals program. It’s a great organization out there and Western Mass people don’t think of Western masses have having hunger issues. Or maybe if you live there you do. But most people don’t think of Massachusetts in general, or New England have as having hunger issues, but we do. And Western Mass is particularly hard hit. So the Franklin County community meals program we’ll be doing some great work and we’ll be raising spirits funds and awareness for that organization. Monte is the chair. He is the board president of the beautiful newly restored fabulous che theater in Turners Falls, Massachusetts would love you to come out and visit us for that night. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I’ll be performing my one person show him we have special guests and speakers, etc. Monty is also the new host at New England media. Monty tell us about your new show and New England public media. It’s called the fabulous 413. Obviously for the 413 area code. He’s also the founder of Monte’s March, every year they for the last 12 or 13 years they have been marched 43 miles in Washington mass and Congressman Jim McGovern takes time out of his impressive schedule in Washington DC to walk for hunger and Western Massachusetts. Without further ado, please welcome Monte Belmonte.

Monte Belmonte 2:18
Thank you so much, Jimmy. I’ve been a fan for a long time. So this is really an honor. I question whether I’m the right first guest to have after you took a three month hiatus. So but I appreciate

Jimmy Tingle 2:28
you. I couldn’t think of a better way to start off everything moving into the rest of 2023. So tell us first of all amante about your radio show is focusing on Western Mass sound. Yeah. What is so special about the 413 area code? Well,

Monte Belmonte 2:45
I grew up in the Boston area. My My dad is from rosin Dale and my mom is from Dedham. So I grew up with the same accent as you and so when I hear and it feels like I’m listening to family, but it sort of fell off when I moved out to Western Mass 20 years ago, following my now wife who is going to get her Master’s at UMass. Yeah, and I kind of had the whole perspective that many people in the Boston area do which is like Western Mass like VRB dragons like I

Jimmy Tingle 3:09
won’t go past Worcester, right? But

Monte Belmonte 3:12
but we moved out here and we fell in love and you know, the first year like living on Main Street and Amherst across from Emily Dickinson’s house and going through downtown Northampton and all the great shops and restaurants and concert venues. We really fell in love and then we we had kids out here and we’re like why we don’t want to move back to strip mall USA in the 495 beltway where we grew up. We’re gonna we’re gonna stay out here and I got to meet so many interesting and smart people. And I was a music DJ at a radio station north of Boston when we moved out here, put in a tape for a station in Northampton called 93 Nine the river W RSI and they were like, Oh, fancy Boston kid from Boston radio, we should hire him in this small radio station. And that was 20 years ago when when I started at that gig the morning show hosts there was Rachel Maddow. Oh, wow, who’s gone on to relative obscurity. I’m not sure what he does now. But then a few years later, I took over as the morning show host and was the morning show host there for 17 years until this past December where I had an opportunity to jump from commercial radio albeit a very like community focused commercial radio station to public radio here at New England public media. And I’m doing a lot of the same exact things I was doing on the on 93 Nine the river just without songs in between talking to astronomers and astronauts and dictionary editors and Congressman Jim McGovern and wine snobs and comedians. You’ll be on my show

Jimmy Tingle 4:38
coming up. Yep. Well, that’s great. And so you’re enjoying it?

Monte Belmonte 4:42
Yeah, I’ve been telling everybody I want to be the Mr. Rogers for grown ups for Western Mass where I know a lot of make believe a little bit of music but not so much me and then like taking you into a factory in Springfield where tortillas are getting made out of corn right up the street and how athlete. So yeah, that’s kind of that’s the vision of the whole thing.

Jimmy Tingle 5:04
That’s excellent. Focusing on the the local community of Western Mass. And as I was saying in the introduction, when people think of Western Mass, most people don’t think about hunger. But yeah, and intimately involved in the hunger issue out there. Tell us about that. And tell us about Monte’s March.

Monte Belmonte 5:19
Yeah. So I mean, the organization that we’re going to be raising money for at the CHE when you’re coming out, Jimmy is the Franklin County community meals program. Franklin County, is the poorest county in all of Massachusetts. It’s very rural. And there’s this interesting parallel between poverty in rural communities and hunger issues in rural communities, as well as in very urban communities like I’m in right now, Springfield. And years ago, I was doing a kind of crazy fundraiser for a local cancer organization where I camped out in the cold in the middle of downtown Northampton, like in the in the middle of the beginning of March in a tent on in the snow. And I said, I’m not going to leave this tent until we raise $10,000 for the cancer connection, that that fundraiser grew into this weird culty strange phenomenon. And I we were also doing a fundraiser for the Food Bank of Western Mass around Thanksgiving. And it was pretty traditional radio, can drive where we sit outside of Whole Foods or whatever with a shopping cart, and people would drop cans off. And when I got to know the executive director of the food bank, he said, you know, we can actually make $1 go a lot farther than a can of lima beans, like you’re gonna spend two bucks on a candle lima beans, we can buy a whole pallet of dented lima beans from the shipping agency for two bucks. Would you ever consider doing a fundraiser as opposed to a food drive? And so we brainstormed and said, Well, if it’s going to be something, it’s got to be something weird, because that’s just kind of how I am. And the people in that little meeting said, what if you took a shopping cart and pushed it to door to door to all the businesses in downtown Northampton and ask for money for the food bank? And I said, What if I took a shopping cart and pushed it from Northampton 26 miles to Greenfield, Massachusetts and that was the lightbulb moment. Wow. So we tried to raise $10,000 that year and did and we were thrilled and you know, technologically it was a nightmare to try to broadcast from a shopping cart. Not to mention the fact that you’ve pushed a shopping cart like even in a parking lot. It rattles like nobody’s business. So we got kids from the the tech school in the area, Smith vocational school. And one of their teachers there Mr. Brooks, they hot rotted the whole shopping cart out. So it’s got this metal surround and blue flames. And like pneumatic wheels, so it doesn’t vibrate as much and LED lights. It’s great. But there was a redistricting after the census in 2010. And we inherited Congressman Jim McGovern in the area. And his aide who’s now my state rep, by the way, came into the office and said Congressman McGovern is really concerned about food security issues. He’d love to join you on the March and I was like a politician? Sure he would. And sure enough, a couple of months before the March began, she reached out again and said he’s serious. He wants to do the whole 26 miles. And so that was I think it must have been 10 years ago now because of the redistricting. And he has joined me every time on that March all 26 miles since But about six years ago, it was made clear to me that a lot apart from just the rural hunger issues. The urban hunger issues were very pronounced and just 20 minutes down the road from Northampton, divided by what we call the tofu kirtan Holyoke range, where you’ve got this very urban and diverse community and then you pass the Holyoke range. And now you’re in hippie Ville, happy pot smoking Smith College, Amherst College, very wealthy community, not that there’s not hunger issues there too. Right. But it was clear that we weren’t connecting with Springfield in a way that we should have. So I said, we really got to start this thing. Springfield and do an extra 17 Miles congressman, it’s not even your district don’t have to come. And sure enough, he’s come every single time, the whole 43 miles, much to his wife’s dismay.

Jimmy Tingle 8:57
Much to his credit, though, he is completely committed to social justice issues, hunger, housing, etc. He’s a wonderful, wonderful man, wonderful, Congressman, and he’ll be there on April 1 at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls. I think he’s going to introduce the show and, and put the whole purpose of the show in perspective, with five

Monte Belmonte 9:19
minutes of stand up to if you want it. Yeah, he can’t No, I’m just kidding. Well, you can no Yeah,

Jimmy Tingle 9:24
okay. He can do he actually endorsed me when I ran for office. He’s Yeah, I just love the man. And he’s doing it on the national level as well. He’s working in Washington, DC, Biden stepped up and gave him a lot of money and they’re making it they’re trying to end hunger in the United States of America, which is obviously a great thing, but you would not think that it would be that much of an issue and the United States of America but unfortunately, it is. So Monty. So tell me. You’re the board president of the Shea Theater. How was the Shea Theater doing? I mean, and am I correct? It was a it was a it was a bit andand it was out of commission for a long time. And then you guys got it, got it back up and running.

Monte Belmonte 10:05
Well, it’s got a storied history. It started as sort of like a vaudeville theater in the 20s. Then it became a movie house. And then it went dark for a little while. And then in the 70s, and 80s hippie commune took it over and use it as their like place of living in their church, then then it was rehabbed in the 90s. And it’s gone through a bunch of different incarnations of nonprofit boards who run it. And the last one was, didn’t want to do it anymore. Back in about 2015. My kids who are Thespians were part of a Shakespeare program at the theater, and it’s a mile from my house. And I had all these entertainment connections because of the radio. And I said, Well, you know, if I were a minor league ballplayer, and my kids baseball coach quit, I should probably step up and coach the team. And that’s kind of how I viewed it. So I helped I got some great people together, I worked with the Northampton Center for the Arts, and we formed a board and we’ve been running it since 2016. And, you know, went through some really hard times like every live performance venue when the pandemic hit. But we’ve had some great workarounds. We’ve had some assistance from Congressman Jim McGovern’s office on the federal level, as well as at the state level as well. And we’re gonna, we’re continuing to pull out of it, but things are looking great. Well, I

Jimmy Tingle 11:19
tell you, folks, listen to this, please, if you live anywhere near Western Mass, and even if you live in the Boston area, and you’d like to support a great theater, for a great night of entertainment, if I do so say so myself. You can meet Monte you can meet Congressman Jim McGovern. And you can meet the folks from the Franklin County community meals program. And amante. Tell me about your affiliation with them and the work that they’re doing also.

Monte Belmonte 11:44
Yeah, so with the way the food bank works, and a lot of people have a hard time understanding this, but the food bank, just like the Food Bank of Greater Boston, is it’s mothership hunger, I call it so they have the purchasing power, the capacity to store food, they have a lot of educational resources, and they have trucks that they can send out into the over 200 agencies that they work with in the four counties of Western Mass, one of which is the Franklin County community meals program. So if you wanted like a panacea to try to help fight hunger for the four counties of Western Mass, the food bank is where it’s at. But all the individual food banks and pantries also need your support to keep the lights on they’ve all got these great programs, the Amherst survival center, the Northampton survival center in places like Franklin County community meals program, so I’ve done a few fundraisers with them, you know, at different like restaurants where I’m the auctioneer and things but yeah, they are one of the the major frontline food service providers in Franklin County, so nobody’s actually getting food as an individual from the food bank. If people in Franklin County need food, the Franklin County community meals program is one of the main places that they’re going to be able to get that food, be it groceries, be it hot meals, that kind of thing.

Jimmy Tingle 12:59
Right. And the proceeds from the show will be going to the Franklin County community meals program, and you can get tickets at That’s theater. Er, not RV.

Unknown Speaker 13:12
Yeah, the non pretentious way,

Jimmy Tingle 13:14
right? Shea Or you can get tickets at my website, Jimmy Would love to see you out there. It’s only $21 for in advance, so get them in advance, folks. It’s $28 The day of the show, and I know my people are bargain hunters. So you want it in advance. And it’s only it’s April Fool’s night. So it’s gonna be a lot of fun Saturday night, turn this falls, Massachusetts. And there’s plenty of parking there isn’t there?

Monte Belmonte 13:40
There is? Yeah, it’s a great it’s a great little community too. So come a little bit early and check out some of the little restaurants and quirky shops. We’ve got this gorgeous waterfall on the Connecticut River and go through to the hallway from Boston into gorgeous drive. Oh, it’s

Jimmy Tingle 13:54
route to all the way. Yeah,

Monte Belmonte 13:55
I like to tell people that I use grew up like inside the 495 beltway, take 495 north to route to west, and then take a left at your first satellites and you’re in Turners Falls,

Unknown Speaker 14:08
it’s two hours until you get to that first satellites, but that’s the case.

Jimmy Tingle 14:13
Two hours without a light. Alright, my people will love that. Yeah. Yeah. By the way, how’s the public transportation situation out there? I know it’s traditionally been non existent or sparse. Right? Yeah. Is that going to improve? Do you think with this infrastructure bill McGovern working on this stuff?

Monte Belmonte 14:34
Yeah. And I think with the Fair Share amendment in the Massachusetts Constitution to the our state delegation out here is really advocating hard for better public transit. We have the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, the PVTA, which is a series of bus buses, and they do the best they can with what resources they have. But really, it fails to connect all the dots. So there’s a Regional Transit Authority in Franklin County, but there’s no service on the weekend. So imagine trying to make ends meet without a car right and have no bus service on the weekend. So our state rep the same one who introduced me to McGovern all those years ago Natalie bleh has been really pushing hard to try to get more resources for the Franklin County Regional Transit Authority and then connect it with the pbta so that you can go from Turners Falls to Springfield, a little bit easier. Plus, where were the hilly administration and some federal money going for the what we call west east rail trains that would run from St. Louis up to Boston or from Pittsfield to Boston. You can’t call it East West Rail out here

Jimmy Tingle 15:33
right now. You can’t tell me Monty in your since you’ve moved out there, and you’re living there, and you’re now you’re doing the radio show, specifically around the community. Is this still the sense of like the redheaded stepchild like Western Mass not getting it to do everything revolves around Boston, and we kind of forget about Western Mass. Is that still the cultural sensibility there?

Monte Belmonte 15:57
Absolutely. I mean, I know there are some people that either want to secede from Massachusetts and join Vermont, or just go to the Quabbin reservoir and pee in it, because we know that’s Boston’s drinking water. I who grew up in the Boston area have a little more kindly feeling towards the Commonwealth as a whole. But yeah, we are trying to make mass whole uniting Boston and Western Mass. And, you know, we’re trying to get the governor on on a monthly basis so that she can hear from our listeners about the issues that that concern Western Mass. She has already been out here a couple times in just a short time she has been governor. So that’s a good sign. We had the lieutenant governor on as well. But yes, it definitely we’re concerned a lot of the times that the lion’s share of the money even with the Fair Share amendment is going to go towards Boston and that Western Mass will be left behind.

Jimmy Tingle 16:44
Right and who was your senator?

Monte Belmonte 16:48
My state senator and in Turners Falls in a large swath of the area is Joe Comerford, who comes from a nonprofit organizing background she ran. She used to be a big we get the food bank of Western Mass actually worked with the National Priorities project, which budget crunches about how much money we in the federal government spend, especially on military expenditures and on not on other things. And so she’s got kind of the nonprofit heart and she’s been a dynamo, in the few years that she’s been there representing us as a senator on Beacon Hill,

Jimmy Tingle 17:19
right. We have very committed public servants here in the state. We’re very lucky. We were lucky with the baker administration. We’re lucky with the Healey administration. I just hope they can do Western Mass justice because there’s obviously a lot of people out there. There’s a ton of talent. People like yourself, Monty who have gravitated from Moore’s Law and Dale from the orange line, the orange line of Roslindale to the to the Mohawk trail in Massachusetts. We’re going to have so much fun on April 1, April Fool’s night, the CHE theater, che You can get tickets of only $21. You can get tickets at my website, Jimmy You can listen to Monty how do they find you Monty on the radio, weekdays?

Monte Belmonte 18:02
Well, if you’re in Western Mass, you can listen to us on New England public media at 88.5 live between three and four. And then we’re on again on the what they call the NE pm News Network. Again at seven or you can stream us live at any Great fabulous 413 is the name of the show.

Jimmy Tingle 18:19
Fabulous for the fabulous 413. And Monty’s March will be when in 2023 If anybody wants to get their walk and shoes on and walk or hunger training? Yes. When is it?

Monte Belmonte 18:31
It is Thanksgiving week, every year. It’s the Monday and Tuesday Thanksgiving week. It used to be a little bit earlier in November, until Congressman McGovern called me one summer and said I gotta take Nancy Pelosi to China to advocate for the Tibetan people think we can move the match to Thanksgiving week because we all have that week off. And I said, done. And it’s been that way ever since.

Jimmy Tingle 18:51
Great. Well, Monte, great. Great to meet you. Yeah, they’re looking forward to seeing you in person on April 1. And thank you. Thanks for all the work you’re doing on behalf of hunger. thank Congressman McGovern for coming and knowing the media for hiring you for your OB your awesome show the fabulous 413 Ladies and Gentlemen, thanks so much for listening to us today. You can find out more about Monte in the show notes today. You can find out more about the walk for hunger or excuse me, Monte’s March. And you can find out more about his show and the Franklin County Community Food meals program all in the show notes today. Thanks so much, everybody. It has been fun being back with you. I look forward to doing this podcast every week. We want to have interesting guests like the one they only Monte Belmonte. Thank you Monte.

Monte Belmonte 19:41
My pleasure. Thank you

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