Ride for Food Takes on Growing Problem of Food Insecurity in Boston Area

Photo By Three Squares New England

DEDHAM, Mass.—Starting at 8:15 a.m. on Sunday, September 21, the first of three teams in the Ride For Food will begin their trek. The Ride for Food is a cycling fundraiser to fight hunger. It is sponsored by Three Squares New England (TSNE), a Dedham-based nonprofit. These bicyclists will ride one of three courses starting and ending at the Noble and Greenough School – a 13-mile loop across Dedham and Needham, a 25-mile route covering seven Metro South towns and a 50-mile trip across other neighboring towns.

TSNE created the event out of concern for those facing hunger in their community, with a focus on increasing food security across the region and heightening the ability of local organizations to provide food to people in need. September 21 will mark TSNE’s third birthday. Through the work of riders and donations from sponsors, TSNE hopes to raise more funds to fight hunger than ever before.

With the problem of hunger worsening in suburban America, TSNE has grown in both membership and in the scope of its mission. Starting in 2012 with just 65 riders and one sole food pantry partner – the Dedham Food Pantry – the Ride for Food has evolved to support programs in 11 Metro Boston municipalities. In 2013, TSNE worked with the Dedham organization Ripple of Hope to raise $123,000 for programs in seven communities. This year’s partners include food pantries in Dedham, JP, Needham, Wellesley and Westwood, along with hunger-relief organizations including A Place to Turn, Boston Area Gleaners, Food for Free, The Food Project, Harvesting Seeds of Hope and the Jewish Family and Children’s Service’s Family Table. TSNE’s current goal is to raise over $150,000 with the 2014 ride.

Spare Change News had the opportunity to speak with Greg Jundanian, a co-founder of TSNE, two weeks before the Ride for Food to discuss the event’s history and mission.

How did the ride start?

My brother was homeless and experienced hunger first hand. Seeing my brother homeless was a strong influence to start the ride. After his passing away, I had an idea to get a group of friends together to see if we might help others in need by starting a fundraising bicycle event.

Hunger is a real issue in our community, and we thought we might bring more focus on it by starting a fundraising ride amongst our friends, first in Dedham, but with the idea of growing it slowly over time.

Participants register for the 2013 Ride for Food.

Participants register for the 2013 Ride for Food.

Would you discuss the ride’s mission?

Our overall mission is to improve community connectivity around the issue of community hunger, and provide an efficient fundraising platform that our partners can use to help themselves raise more money to continue the spectacular work they already do.

We are a grassroots organization, totally staffed by volunteers. Our goals create a very efficient fundraising platform for our partners. We have no money to stage this event, other than what we collect through registration fees and the Ride for Food team, yet we returned last year, on average, 111% of every partner dollar raised.

This is not a race of professional bicyclists, but rather a ride to raise funds and awareness to help           local hunger relief organizations and their clients. We are sponsoring three rides, each of different length and size, that pass through a variety of local towns in Metro-Southwest Boston. These individual rides will help to positively expose the problem of hunger and provide a vehicle whereby everyone can contribute.

The ride will continue in the upcoming years with maybe more ride teams and volunteers.

How is the ride organized?

There is a one-time registration fee of $75, which is required to participate. After logging into the registration page and paying the fee, people are asked to join one of the 12 teams. The ride fees help to cover our set-up expenses.

The program itself has a total of 50 volunteers so far, a little more than a week before the race. If you would like to register to volunteer or ride, please go to http://www.therideforfood.org for more information.

Editor: Ben Potrykus

Robert Sondak is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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