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Pioneer Valley cyclists raise money for Food Bank

  • Andrew Vaitkunas of Leverett (who also works at Valley Bike and Ski Werks) performs a tune-up on Geri Kleinman of Florence's bike before her 25 mile bike route for the Hatfield Food Bank fundraiser, "Will Bike for Food" Sunday in Hatfield.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    Andrew Vaitkunas of Leverett (who also works at Valley Bike and Ski Werks) performs a tune-up on Geri Kleinman of Florence's bike before her 25 mile bike route for the Hatfield Food Bank fundraiser, "Will Bike for Food" Sunday in Hatfield.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dave Marques of Hadley starts out on his 50 mile bike route for the Hatfield Food Bank fundraiser, "Will Bike for Food" Sunday in Hatfield.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    Dave Marques of Hadley starts out on his 50 mile bike route for the Hatfield Food Bank fundraiser, "Will Bike for Food" Sunday in Hatfield.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Alan Verson of Leeds comes to a bridge in Turner Falls along his 50 mile bike route for the Hatfield Food Bank fundraiser, "Will Bike for Food" Sunday in Hatfield.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    Alan Verson of Leeds comes to a bridge in Turner Falls along his 50 mile bike route for the Hatfield Food Bank fundraiser, "Will Bike for Food" Sunday in Hatfield.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Instructor Karl Schneider spend five hours Saturday working with area firefighters about how to respond to accidents involving hybrid vehicles.<br/>FRAN RYAN

    Instructor Karl Schneider spend five hours Saturday working with area firefighters about how to respond to accidents involving hybrid vehicles.
    FRAN RYAN Purchase photo reprints »

  • Andrew Vaitkunas of Leverett (who also works at Valley Bike and Ski Werks) performs a tune-up on Geri Kleinman of Florence's bike before her 25 mile bike route for the Hatfield Food Bank fundraiser, "Will Bike for Food" Sunday in Hatfield.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Dave Marques of Hadley starts out on his 50 mile bike route for the Hatfield Food Bank fundraiser, "Will Bike for Food" Sunday in Hatfield.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Alan Verson of Leeds comes to a bridge in Turner Falls along his 50 mile bike route for the Hatfield Food Bank fundraiser, "Will Bike for Food" Sunday in Hatfield.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Instructor Karl Schneider spend five hours Saturday working with area firefighters about how to respond to accidents involving hybrid vehicles.<br/>FRAN RYAN

Participants rode between 25 and 100 miles, each raising upwards of $250 for the cause.

All of the proceeds from the event will go straight to The Food Bank, now in its 30th year of providing food to individuals and families in need through meal sites, food pantries, homeless shelters, childcare centers, and elder programs. With the help of these agencies, the Food Bank distributes more than 6 million pounds of food every year.

“It’s a fantastic cause, said Victoria Rosen, 27, of Northampton, of the Food Bank’s “Will Bike 4 Food” fundraiser.

“You get a chance to be healthy and to help the community be healthy — and it’s fun.” The Food Bank’s work towards its long-term mission to stop the problem of hunger in Western Mass. — and to make nutritious food affordable and accessible for all — also includes community outreach and organizing, as well as nutrition education classes and programming “I’m a big believer in what the Food Bank does,” said Diana Spurgin, of Amherst, who was offering her support as a volunteer at the event.

“I love to eat and I feel fortunate to never have had to worry.” She said she feels heartened that the “Will Bike 4 Food” event “is going to provide a lot of food to a lot of people.”

Heather Clark, the Food Bank’s development and marketing manager, said for every dollar raised at the event, the Food Bank can supply about $13 worth of food, “based on established relationships” with food suppliers and wholesalers.

“That,” said Rosen, “just feels good. It’s like triple impact. It’s exciting to me.”

The money raised at this year’s event is still being calculated; participants have until Oct. 31 to finish raising funds. Last year’s first annual ride, which took place in Easthampton, raised a total of $35,000.

Clark said cycling is an especially great way to get the local community involved.

“We recognize that cycling is very popular in the Valley, she said. “Will Bike 4 Food,” is designed to “tap into that niche market.” Self-described as catering to “casual and avid cyclists alike,” the event was also designed to accommodate bike riders of a whole range of ages and athleticism.

Participants had the option of cycling one of four different routes — 25, 50, 75, or 100 miles long, respectively. All four routes left from the Food Bank headquarters in Hatfield, heading north through the Pioneer Valley.

The 25-mile route, which embarked at 11 a.m., took riders on a loop up to Deerfield and back.

Riders who participated in the 100-mile route — that took them all the way up to Brattleboro, Vt. before heading back to home base — began their journey at 7:30 a.m.

“People here really run the gamut,” said Rosen, who describes herself as a “mild biker.” She said she used the Norwottuck Rail Trail, is to prepare for the event, especially over the last few weeks.

Regardless of biking ability, participants got the chance to bask in the Fall scenery.

“It’s just always nice to discover how beautiful your own backyard is,” said Geri Kleinman, 54, of Florence, who completed the 25-mile route.

After finishing their rides, participants gathered for an after party back at The Food Bank headquarters. The feast for the riders included beer from Berkshire Brewing Company, as well as food from local restaurants. The celebration was topped off by classic rock music from local band Moose and the High Tops.

Roxy Schenider, of Amherst, was pumped up after completing her ride. “It’s cool — just think about how much this raised,” she said. “We live in the best community.”

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