After riding 4200 miles in the last 10 weeks, Cyclists Fighting Hunger pulled into Boston on Wednesday, exhausted but very satisfied with their trip.
The group of 48 students from Harvard, Berkeley and Rutgers raised more than $100,000 as they bicycled across the country, educating people about the problems of hunger.
Co-sponsored by Oxfam America and Save the Children, the group collected enough money to fund eight or ten small scale self-help development projects, said biker Marianne Kelly, who graduated from Rutgers in June.
"Oxfam aims at uplifting communities and giving people back their motivation and their sense of pride, not buying food and giving it to people," she said.
Like a walk-a-thon, Cyclists Fighting Hunger, who have now completed four cross-country rides, made their money by getting friends and relatives to sponsor them a few pennies a mile. After 4200 miles, those pennies add up.
Half of the money raised will go directly to Oxfam, which manages both domestic and overseas projects to fight hunger. The other half of the money will finance a project on the Lower East Side of New York clearing lots to plant vegetable and fruit gardens, said Kelly.
The group left San Francisco June 7 and rode between 40 and 120 miles a day for nine and a half weeks. Every night, they stopped in a small town and were housed and fed by local community or church groups. In each town the students made formal presentations about Oxfam and Save the Children projects, and "just talked to people," said Kevin Peterson, a student at Berkeley.
"The most startling thing was meeting people who didn't believe hunger was a problem," Peterson said. "We stopped in Winnemucka, Nevada, where one in every four families is eligible for federal food aid. But just down the road from all the poverty, people didn't know it was there," he said.
After travelling over the Rockies, across deserts and through the Great Plains, the group stopped in Washington D.C. to discuss the problem of hunger with their Congressmen and to urge them to support appropriations for the Child Immunization Act, a bill now being considered in the House, said Carolyn McColley '88.
The group also tried to break down stereotypes that hunger is a problem of the mentally ill and the lazy, said McColley. "It's criminal that so many people believe it. The hungry aren't homeless. They have families, they had jobs once, and they would like to have jobs again," she said.