Walsh: Foods are fodder for 10-mile benefit ride

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Depending on how far they plan to pedal and the type of road or trail they'll be traveling on, experienced bicyclists may carry a small repair kit that fits under their seat, a basket or handlebar bag with inner tubes and tools and/or a large multi-zippered bag mounted on a rack behind their seats.

Amy Camp would like participants in the Bike to Feed Families Ride to fill their bags and over-the-wheels panniers -- saddlebags, if you will -- with some things they're not used to carrying:

Fresh produce if gardens are still productive, boxes of rice and high-fiber cereal, peanut butter and a variety of canned goods -- beans, vegetables, salmon and tuna (both packed in water).

"Those are the most needed items," Camp said.

She had only one caveat -- nothing packed in glass.

Camp will meet riders at 10 a.m. next Saturday at the Pump House at 880 E. Waterfront Drive in Homestead for the 10-mile ride to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank at 1 N. Linden St. in Duquesne.

The motto for the ride is: "Bag it, bring it, bike it in."

"Cyclists of all abilities are welcome," Camp said. "The ride is free and open to the public. No pre-registration is necessary. If some riders have room in their backpacks or on their bikes for more food items, we'll load them up. We plan to leave for the food bank at 10 a.m."

The ride will travel through the Mon Valley on the easy-to-pedal paved Steel Valley Trail segment of the Great Allegheny Passage. There will be signs in Duquesne and volunteers to direct cyclists to the food bank. If you're unable to ride, a check made out to the food bank will be welcomed.

Camp said volunteers are needed from 9:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to direct cyclists arriving by car to parking spaces near the Pump House, assist with bike repairs and take turns pulling a bike trailer loaded with food donations.

Camp, former program manager for the Trail Town Program that encourages economic development in towns along the passage, said she came up with the idea and contacted Patricia Van Dillen, special event and food drive coordinator for the food bank, and Iris Valanti, communications director.

She said a number of individuals, organizations and retailers have pitched in to help. "I think it will be the only food drive delivered by bike," Camp said.

Valanti agreed.

"It's the first one I've heard of and I've been here eight years," Valanti said. "It's a great idea and another example of how people use their imaginations to help others."

Although some veteran cyclists may load up themselves, their bikes, their trailers and/or child carriers with food, it isn't necessary to take on the appearance of a pack mule to participate.

The goal is to carry a comfortable load, enjoy the company of like-minded bicyclists during the ride and do some good for others.

The need has never been greater.

Information: email amyrcamp@gmail.com; http://www.facebook.com/biketofeedfamilies; http://pittsburghfoodbank.org and 412-460-FOOD (3663).

After your ride

If your ride along the Great Allegheny Passage today takes you into Connellsville, Sustainable Connellsville invites you to enjoy the Second Annual Tangled Up in Brew festival from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Yough River Park.

There will be a home-brewed beer competition, brewing demonstrations, music by Jaguar Mountain Rundown and Dogtown, food and prizes. The $20 cost includes a free pint glass.

Sustainable Connellsville works with the town, Pennsylvania Environmental Council and the West Penn Power Sustainability Fund for the betterment of the community.

Information: www.sustainableconnellsville.org; email sustainableconnellsville@gmail.com and 724-603-5554.

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Larry Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.


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