Volunteers prepare for their bike trip to deliver food to the Annie B. Rose home.
Photo by Vernon Miles.
Seven bicyclists worked their way in a convoy up Royal Street on Aug. 17. Wagons trailed behind the bikes, each loaded with corn or tomatoes or fruit. The tomatoes are particularly popular with the residents of the Annie B. Rose home, their destination. The tomatoes and other vegetables come from various sources: Spring Valley Farm and Orchard, the Farmstead of Charlotte Hall, Lopez Farm and Montoya Farm, all vendors at the Old Town Farmer’s Market, all donated to Bike for Good.
Since the program started in 2014, Bike for Good has carried 16,000 pounds of food up the mile-long stretch from City Hall to the Annie B. Rose home.
The program is run by Sara Rhoades, Alexandria’s SNAP EBT/gleaning coordinator. Rhoades said the program started a year ago with funding from a USDA grant in 2014. The food is donated from vendors at Alexandria’s Farmer’s Market.
Most of the volunteers were doing the program for the first time, and all had different reasons for coming out. Ben Dodge biked down to Alexandria from Rockville, taking the Capital Crescent trail then the Mount Vernon trial.
“I’ve never done this before,” said Dodge. “it’s a cool opportunity to take the extra food to the people who need it.”
Dodge says he enjoys group rides, but that he enjoyed Bike for Good in particular because it had a purpose and a destination. For others, biking was secondary to the social work aspect.
“I consider myself an environmentalist,” said Jon Choi. “This is helping to eliminate food waste, but also helping local businesses and farmers.”
Edzon Samwell from the Dominican Republic and Leoncio Ferreira from Brazil are both attending school in the area and are encouraged to volunteer locally.
“At [the Northern Virginia Community College], our coordinator talked about this program,” said Samwell. “It counts towards the volunteer hours we have to do as exchange students.”
At the Annie B. Rose home, residents line up at the entrance to see the food come in.
“We’re grateful and we really appreciate this program,” said Rita Finney. “We’re particularly fond of the tomatoes and the Swiss chard.”
According to Rhoades, the Bike for Good program is part of a wider effort to make healthy food more accessible to Alexandrians in need. Rhoades also runs a Double Dollar program with the vendors at the Old Town Farmer’s Market. Anyone with SNAP or EBT cards can use them to buy fresh fruits or vegetables at the market. If they stop by the information booth at the farmer’s market, they can receive up to $20 matching what they spent on more fresh fruit and vegetables. The Double Dollar program runs out of funds in September. However, Rhoades and is hosting a Soil to Soul fundraising event on Sept. 29 at the Hotel Monaco to keep the program running.