Harrison Township ‘cranks’ up and donates to local food pantry

On Oct. 20 is South Jersey’s first Cranksgiving event, where all proceeds and donations will benefit Your Place at the Table.

Cranksgiving South Jersey logo (Diana Williams/Special to The Sun).

By KRYSTAL NURSE

The Sun

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Three women from Harrison Township loved to bike and equally loved giving back to the community, but didn’t know how to marry the two until the introduction of Cranksgiving, a fall-related bicycling food drive scavenger hunt.

Diana Williams was inspired to introduce Cranksgiving, on Oct. 20, to Harrison Township after participating in Philadelphia’s a few years ago.

“I get to this park in Philadelphia with around 250 people, and there’s a guy in a turkey costume, families and people had their cargo bikes ready to go,” said Williams. “They gave us a list of all the stores we could go to and buy things either on your own or with others and it was wonderful.”

Williams added cyclists rode around on their bikes, store to store, and purchased non-perishable food items to donate to the Philabundance, a food bank serving Philadelphia.

“It actually started 20 years ago in New York City with the bike messengers who would ride all around the city and wanted to give back to the city,” said Williams. “That grassroots movement helped start 80 to 100 events across the country in the fall.”

With Harrison Township already having a large population of cyclists and the Your Place at the Table food pantry, Williams thought it would be a good idea to bring Cranksgiving to its first South Jersey location, according to the nonprofit’s website.

“We could do this as a grassroots thing and have people come up, and there’s no cost to them except for what they buy, and we could raise nearly $1,000 for the local food pantry, hopefully,” said Williams.

“Your whole family can come and just ride around on the bikes,” said Julie DeLaurentis, Harrison Township committeewoman. “And bring a few dollars to buy two cans or however much you want to buy of food.”

A list will be provided to riders the day of the event that lays out what food (brand names) they’re looking for, which stores they can find them at and how to return them to Trinity United Methodist Church (where YPATT is located). If supplies are low or non-existent in a certain store, riders are welcome to pick up other, necessary items.

“We ask for non-perishable items, so something that’s purchased in our October event can go until February or whenever,” said DeLaurentis. “The Amish Market is participating, CVS, ShopRite and Heritages.”

At most, participants can expect to spend $20 on the food listed. The route, the women said, is around 10 to 12 miles long, depending on the route riders take.

“They picked YPATT as this year’s recipient of foods from Cranksgiving,” said Maureen Brigham, Your Place at the Table volunteer. “The food pantry is near and dear to my heart, so I wasn’t opposed to them selecting it. They serve the immediate areas around Harrison Township.”

Those who come back to Trinity church with the food items will also be given a small token of appreciation.

The women said that with the free, open registration, they do not know how many riders are expected to be in the township that day, nor do they know how many pounds of food will be donated, however, their hopes are for a high turnout.

“There’s also no definite start between the 9 a.m. and noon times,” said Brigham. “They could drop in and out depending on what works best with their schedules.”

With there being so many people who could be steps away from needing to visit the food pantry, the women said this is another way to give back to the nonprofit, other than the #PACKTheCrate events.

“Illnesses, job losses and anything could put you steps away from having to visit YPATT,” said Brigham. “We just require that people show proof of living in the county.”

Cranksgiving South Jersey is on Oct. 20 starting around 9 a.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church located at 284 Cedar Road in Mullica Hill. Riders are asked to bring cash for food purchases, bicycles, helmets and something to carry the food in. More information about the event can be found at www.CranksgivingSouthJersey.EventBrite.com.

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