Feeding Children, By All Means

From the Road: “Bike Out Hunger Texas: Fredericksburg to Dallas, Texas”

bike-out-hunger

Sometimes I ride for the love of the sport. But sometimes I ride for the love God has given us for other people.

Today, it was the latter.

As I woke this morning, the fourth day of Bike Out Hunger from woefully too little sleep, I thought about driving a SAG wagon (for non-cyclist this is the motorized vehicle that supports and assist riders on long rides) to give my body a break but I remembered the route and where we were headed. Today we were riding through Priddy.

Texas. Perhaps that does not sound very interesting to you, but it is the single best event I've been a part of while riding a bike.

Priddy is a small town of around 250 people set in the plateau hills of the northern edge of central Texas. A town most Texans and fewer non-Texans have ever heard of; and would probably misspell.

Our final stretch point of the day was at the Priddy School. A K-12 school where there is an amazing superintendent, principal, teaching staff and student body. As we pulled into the parking lot, all 107 students in the school system jumped and cheered our arrival with clapping, yelling and waving hand-made signs. The signs, some of them made by an individual students and some were family projects, had drawings of bikes, cows, horses, train tracks and their families. One thing each sign did was thank us for riding to end hunger and each sign thanked us in a different and personal way. Some read “Thank you,” “Good Job,” “You are awesome,” “You are fun to watch” and “You Rock!” which was my personal favorite.

As the Kindergarten through 3 rd graders began to warm up to our presence, they all wanted to pick up the bikes, stand on the pedals, know how far we had ridden, if we use sunscreen and if our legs hurt. As the older students embraced the spirit of the event, they too entered conversations about their sports (they have a phenomenal cross-country team) and their lives in small-town Priddy. One student in particular, a junior, had attended Super Summer. We stayed at this stretch point for about an hour. A typical stretch point is under 10 minutes. After about 15 minutes of asking questions and comparing bikes, one second grade student began walking around with her sign and a crayon. She was asking us to sign the poster she made for us. That started a trend. Pretty soon, there were groups of children around each rider who was holding a crayon and signing his or her name to the posters. Other elementary kids gave their sign to a rider, Don Vanderslice, to keep him encouraged.

Many of these signs were created by children who are far too familiar with hunger. Of the 107 students in the Priddy ISD, 62 are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. That’s 60%! Unknown to these children, they were thanking us for raising awareness and money for feeding them.

I cried.

62 is not the miles ridden or miles per hour or feet of climbing, but the number of food-insecure children who greeted us, thanked us and blessed us today. This is the only number that matters to me. It was not only profound, but an incredibly beautiful act of kindness.

Out Hunger, a Mansfield, Texas-based non-profit, was created to empower people to actively end the cycle of hunger that exists in our neighborhoods, cities, states and nation. Bringing together individuals, communities, companies and feeding organizations forms a locally based consortium focused on truly making a difference in the community where they live.

While the end recipient of all Out Hunger activities (Bike Out Hunger being the most popular) is the person who doesn’t have enough food to eat. Out Hunger often serves as a fundraiser for another local charity doing great work fulfilling their mission to feed children and families in need. For those charities, we simply come alongside and provide awareness and funds to further their amazing work.

One aspect where Out Hunger is taking the lead is through a mission it created called “Snow Food.” This system was created during the winter of 2014 when several Texas school systems were closed for a week due to inclement weather. Snow Food works with a school district to identify areas that have a high concentration of food insecure children and then manages a volunteer process that delivers easily prepared food to designated distribution points by 10:00 am each day a school is closed due to weather.

“While my snow days as a child were filled with anticipation, having a free day to play in the snow and then coming in for warm food; too many children in the US experience a snow day stuck at home, where hunger dwells,” said Rand Jenkins, Executive Director at Out Hunger. “Children who rely on the school meal program for their daily meals run a great risk of going hungry whenever school is out. Many communities do a great of job feeding children when there are planned school breaks like during weekends and summer, but snow days often go unnoticed.”

Amazon, that place where one can buy just about anything without ever getting off the sofa – well, it has a charity funding aspect that isn’t all that well-known. It’s called Amazon Smile. It works just like Amazon, because it is Amazon. It gives a percentage of every purchase to the charity the shopper selects. To shop through Amazon Smile and fund Out Hunger’s efforts, simply go to www.smile.amazon.com instead of Amazon.com and choose Out Hunger, based in Mansfield, Texas, as the charity recipient. The smile.amazon.com site functions the same way as Amazon.com – even all of your shipping information, browsing history and shopping cart information carry over.

It’s a great, easy (and free to subscribers) way to help end the cycle of hunger.

More information on Out Hunger, Snow Food and Bike Out Hunger events can be found online at www.outhunger.org. And, of course, donations to the cause can be made there too.