Neville Craw had not been on a bicycle since high school, but it did not deter him from pedaling 300 miles in three days between Santa Barbara and San Diego, California.
The Arby’s chef was part of Chefs Cycle, a charity program under the larger No Kid Hungry initiative, which seeks to end childhood hunger in the U.S. Only in its second year, Chefs Cycle raised nearly $340,000, which translates to roughly 3.4 million meals for children who would not otherwise have a lunch.
“It was phenomenal,” Craw says. “Before we even got on the ride, we felt that we had accomplished a lot.” Craw set a personal goal of $10,000 and ended up raising $13,880. On his donation page, he promised that part of his training program included “polishing up on my Tweeting while biking skills.”
Although his journey was not completely bump free—he collided with a “hapless young coed” bicyclist, and bruised his ribs—Craw was buoyed by the camaraderie of his fellow riders.
This year’s Chefs Cycle had two rides with an East Coast route traveling between New York City and Washington, D.C. Craw’s West Coast group was comprised of more than a dozen chefs including Jeff Mahin of Summer House and Stella Barra Pizzeria, Food Network host Bob Blumer, and Shake Shack’s Allan Ng.
“Collectively this whole group, it was friendly. Everybody was rooting for each other. It wasn’t a race; it was all about the event,” Craw says. “I haven’t spent that much time with a group of chefs and barely talked about food, which was pretty amazing.” Although the chefs did not discuss their trade much, they did eat their meals at restaurants participating in No Kid Hungry.
As the riders closed in on San Diego, they stopped at a Boys & Girls Club during lunch. The two-hour visit allowed the chefs to immerse themselves with the kids and talk with them about their lunch, what they had eaten for breakfast, and what they planned to eat for dinner. Craw says that for many of the kids, the lunch at the Boys & Girls Club is their biggest meal of the day.
In addition to its involvement in this year’s Chefs Cycle, the Arby’s Foundation (the philanthropic arm of the quick-service brand), partners with other No Kid Hungry initiatives including Dine Out, which encourages consumers to dine at participating restaurants where they can make donations to the cause and take advantage of in-store promos.
“The whole Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry has always had a strong presence in the chef community, but it’s growing now,” Craw says. “It went from more local, independent-operator chefs to more larger food companies and restaurant chains.”
What started as two chefs raising $25,000 last year has already grown to about 45 raising a third of a million this year. Craw expects it could be as many as a hundred participants next year with rides taking place in multiple areas around the country.
“The presence and the awareness and even … the media attachment to all this is only going to help it grow exponentially,” he says.
By Nicole Duncan