As a frequent bucket list item, cross-country or long distance cycling has a certain attraction to it. Picking up a new set of wheels comes with unfamiliar goals, and for most, an even longer list of benefits. Maybe it’s the sense of clarity that can be found on the open road or a newfound friendliness and camaraderie of those pedaling the pavement for a cause. For those who ride and train through sweat and pain—and rain, wind, mountains and Mother Nature’s unpredictability—it’s a self-fulfilling accomplishment.
For the chefs biking the 300 miles for Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry, now in its second year, maybe it’s the calm away from the bustling pans and kitchen hours that allows them to pedal out the miles and push through. Whatever the emotional benefits, physical struggles, or resistance undergone, each pedaling chef shares the understanding that every mile is traveled for a hungry child.
Chefs Cycle brings restaurant industry professionals together on two multi-city courses in a 300 mile, three-day bike ride that raises funds and awareness for No Kid Hungry, who provides nutritious meals to hungry kids who would otherwise go without.
“That’s one of the hardest things in the trade—we’re consistently tasting and trying dishes and you’re always surrounded by food, but how is it that kids are going hungry?” says chef Jason Roberts, an ardent supporter of No Kid Hungry. After connecting with co-founder Debbie Shore about 15 months ago, Roberts rolled out the concept of a bike ride. A few months later he’s riding from New York to D.C. with a group of chefs for the first Chefs Cycle event. They raised just about $25,000 with that ride, and today, with nearly 50 chefs involved, Chefs Cycle has brought in upward of $172,000—about the equivalent of 1,724,850 meals.
Two rides will take place down each coast this June—one routed from New York City to Washington D.C. June 7-9, and the other from Santa Barbara to San Diego June 14-16.
“The bike thing makes sense—I’m exercising; I’m meditating; I get all my thoughts down,” Roberts says. “I wanted this great synergy between the bike ride and chefs cooking and fueling themselves while being able to peddle this message out.”
One in 5 children in the U.S. does not get the food he or she needs. Childhood hunger takes a toll on health and development, and it is preventable.
“It’s why we pedal; it’s the steps we take,” Roberts says. “It’s just something that seems ridiculous—I never remember as a kid being hungry or choosing between the quality or quantity of food. So we’re personally engaging in this cause. We’re getting closer.”
The numbers are grim—16.2 million children live in households that lack the means to get enough food on a regular basis. The No Kid Hungry campaign connects kids in need with nutritious food and teaches their families how to cook healthy, affordable meals. The campaign also engages the public to make ending childhood hunger a national priority.
Chefs and restaurants have been some of the most fervent supporters, magnifying the voice of hunger in America. As an avid advocate for health, nutrition, waste management, and conscious eating, Roberts’ effort with Chefs Cycle and No Kid Hungry has a two-prong effect. “It’s one thing to raise money and awareness and give kids food—but it’s what we’re giving them.” he says. “How are these great building blocks to a better future? I’ve thought long and hard about this.”
Once upon a time, Cody and Cassidy, through lemonade stands and water sales, raised $250 for Roberts and No Kid Hungry. Their grandmother, an acquaintance of his, matched their funds and brought the two to New York to personally deliver the check. “We raised the money for you, Chef Jason,” said the 7-year-old Cassidy. “Because 90 percent of the food we eat comes from donations. And we rely on school lunches.” He says his jaw dropped.
Roberts says community is an integral part of Chefs Cycle. From avid cyclists to those who trained for the first time 6 months ago, the chefs who participate in this ride reveal a sense of self-reliance that’s built and sustained by the larger group. Chefs Cycle is meant to take chefs out of the hospitality industry box and into something bigger.
“You strip down to a bare minimum when you give yourself like this,” Roberts says. “No amount of foie gras truffles or any exotic food that might be cool at the time is going to fire away the need and the love and the reward from giving back like this.”
For those who can’t get away to ride this year, just one dollar can help a child access ten meals.