WACO – Each year in Texas, there are hundreds of cycling events supporting anything from cancer research to local schools, focusing on community efforts to camaraderie with fellow cyclists. But one remains like no other – Bike Out Hunger.
A six-day cycling event that will take place April 22-27 beginning in The Woodlands and finishing in Arlington, Bike Out Hunger seeks to raise awareness of, active involvement in and funds for hunger issues in Texas but also allows cyclists to participate in anti-hunger efforts throughout the ride, helping them learn how to make hunger advocacy part of their daily lives.
Cyclists will finish the fourth leg of the effort in Waco on April 24. Then the group will leave from the First Lutheran Church in Waco at 8:30 a.m Friday morning after serving breakfast to homeless men and women in the city.
Seasoned cyclists to recreational riders participate in the ride. Some come for the thrill of riding more than 400 miles, while others are drawn by the cause because they personally have experienced food insecurity at some point during their lives.
“We help turn people into cyclists and cyclists into hunger advocates through Bike Out Hunger,” said Rand Jenkins, who leads the effort. “People who come to ride in Bike Out Hunger learn to incorporate helping the hungry into their daily, weekly and monthly routines.
“Often, it's drawing a connection between the effort and need of nourishment while riding a bike a few hundred miles to the ongoing hunger needs. Recognizing the need and having a desire and knowledge of how to help are the basics of ending the cycle of hunger - and we teach that throughout Bike Out Hunger."
This happened with Scott Shelton, who joined the ride two years ago and had never ridden a long distance on a bike. As he rode during the six-day ride, hunger has become an important issue to Shelton, so much so that he went back home and told an avid rider in his church, Richard Griffin, about riding in the event the next year.
He did join and then the two men helped organize a one-day Bike Out Hunger in Athens during November 2012 to connect many in their church and community to hunger issues in the state and to help them become involved with the cause.
“Caring for the poor and the neglected is not an optional thing, and we want to engage that in the best way we know how,” Shelton said.
This year, riders will begin the 400-mile ride in The Woodlands and weave their way through Bastrop, Austin, Cameron,Waco, Waxahachie and Midlothian to complete the ride at Mission Arlington in downtown Arlington.
When in Austin, cyclists will meet with legislators and lobbyists about their concerns for Texas hunger issues. In Waco, riders will share about hunger efforts with family, church members and Baylor University students at a picnic hosted by OutdoorWaco, the Texas Hunger Initiative, Waco Region Baptist Association and Mission Waco. The following morning, the team will serve breakfast to homeless men and women through an outreach effort at the First Lutheran Church.
The ride will end at Mission Arlington after cyclists ride the last leg with several clients of the center who were given bicycles as means of transportation to their jobs. The cyclists will tour the mission center to learn more about ways they can get involved with helping end the cycle of hunger and poverty.
Also each day, the cyclists will be given information about the food insecurity rate for the counties they ride through, helping them understand more about the area where they are riding and giving them information to share with their friends and family via social media.
Individuals and churches are sponsoring the cyclists, some choosing to give a one-time donation while others are sponsoring each mile a cyclist rides.
In Texas, more than 18.5 percent of people are food insecure, equaling about 4.6 million people. Texas has the third highest food insecurity rate in the nation.
“We hope that through the ride we are able to connect people’s passion for cycling with a heart for hungry kids. There is no reason for our state, as abundant and fruitful that it is, to be number three in food insecurity. My hope is that through events like Bike Out Hunger, we can care for people around the state by combining passion and compassion.
This year, the ride is part of a push for Texas Baptists churches to raise $1 million for hunger efforts in one day through a special Mother’s Day offering.
All the funds raised through Bike Out Hunger and the Mother’s Day offering will support hundreds of food and development projects in Texas and around the world through the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering.
“We are actively working to end the cycle of hunger. Through hunger partnerships in our state, we as a state have taken great strides to help feed the hungry and end the cycle of poverty. But there still is so much more left to do,” Jenkins said.
For those interested in supporting the effort or joining the ride, visit www.outhunger.org.