MAPLEWOOD • Fueled by an extra hour of sleep from the end of daylight saving time, nearly 700 cyclists took off Sunday morning on a combined bike ride and food drive.
The riders had three routes from which to choose — five, 11 and 22 miles. Regardless of distance, each route included at least three supermarkets. There, the riders bought canned goods and loaded them into their backpacks, bicycle baskets and other carrying devices and hauled them to Schlafly Bottleworks, where the ride began.
All the food items were donated to Food Outreach, a local organization that serves those with HIV/AIDS or cancer.
Unlike most rides, there was no registration fee for the event, known as Cranksgiving. St. Louis BWorks, which organized the ride, asked the cyclists to instead use the money to buy the canned items.
Patrick Van Der Tuin, operations director of BWorks, said it's an opportunity for riders of all levels to have a fun day out while helping a good cause. It's the sixth year for the ride and the fifth year working with Food Outreach, Van Der Tuin said.
"This ride is for everybody," he said. "You see $4,000 road bikes and $100 Schwinns. It pulls from all levels of riders."
St. Louis BWorks runs three programs aimed at urban children. The charter program teaches bicycle safety and responsibility. The organization also works with children to operate and maintain computers, and to write and illustrate books.
For Food Outreach, the ride is the biggest one-day event for its ongoing canned food collection efforts. And ride organizers say it's the largest food drive of the 20 Cranksgivings held throughout the country.
Last year, the ride resulted in 6,000 pounds of canned goods. This year, about 7,500 pounds were donated.
Food Outreach was founded in 1988. Last year, it provided more than 473,000 meals to its clients. Still, the nonprofit often flies under the radar.
"Of the 600 (riders) who showed up last year, probably 500 never had any kind of relationship with us before," said Justin O'Neal, marketing manager for Food Outreach. "So this is great awareness for us as well."
Grace Rasche, 10, of Richmond Heights was part of a group of about 20 friends and family on the ride. It was her first Cranksgiving. She said she will be back.
"I like doing food drives and it's fun to do a bike ride," Grace said. And riding a bike to collect items for a good cause is better for the environment than hopping in the car, she added.