(Courtesy of JFCS) Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Northern New Jersey’s (JFCS) 11th Annual Wheels-for-Meals: Ride to Fight Hunger takes place in one week on Sunday, June 13, starting and finishing at Spectra Labs in Rockleigh, New Jersey. Funds raised through The Ride to Fight Hunger will support the agency’s food insecurity services for homebound seniors and disadvantaged individuals and families in Bergen, Passaic and Hudson counties. Some of these programs include The Corner Market food pantry, which provides food and household items to more than 700 local households, and the kosher Meals-On-Wheels program, which delivers seven meals a week to over 350 seniors and individuals every year.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, last year’s 10th annual Ride was made virtual. Over 200 people chose to ride, hike, walk, or spin safely and distanced to address growing food insecurity in our community. As a result of their efforts, JFCS surpassed its fundraising goal by $20,000.
This year, JFCS is excited to return to the traditional format of riding together in person on 3-, 10-, 28- and 50-mile bike routes. To keep the event as safe as possible, JFCS staff will limit crowding in the starting area, and there will not be a “mass start” as in years past. There is also an option to join a guided hike, a virtual spin class, or take part in a family bike-riding lesson geared toward children ages 4-12 years old (offered by Shepard Grinker of Tenafly Bicycle Workshop).
It takes more than riders to make this event a great success; it also takes support from the local community and businesses. This year, the Wheels for Meals Ride has over 40 corporate and small business sponsors. Among them is Sandie Reilly, aka the Bike Lady. As a result of restructuring at her company during the pandemic, Sandie started to repair bicycles to supplement her income. Friends and neighbors made an effort to support her by hiring and referring her to new customers. Much to her relief, she quickly built up a successful business. Sandie wanted to give back to the community, so she decided that sponsoring the JFCS’s Ride aligned perfectly with her business and desire to show gratitude. While Sandie never needed to use the food pantry, she understands how easily she could have been among the many families turning to JFCS for help.
The JFCS Ride has become a favorite tzedakah among the younger generations. Three local teens will celebrate their bar and bat mitzvahs with their friends and family at the event: Willow Becker from Englewood, Zak Krohn from Teaneck, and Ben Ashkenase from Tenafly. Willow, Ben and Zak each love to cycle and felt this was the perfect mitzvah project for them. “We know that food insecurity is an important issue, but especially this year during COVID, those needs have grown significantly,” said Ben’s mom, Jana Ashkenase. Zachary Krohn said, “This ride is important to me because it’s a great opportunity to raise money for charity and have fun while doing it.” “I’ve learned from my family over the years that giving to charity is a very important thing to do,” says Willow Becker. “It bothers me greatly that there are people who are homeless and who need food, and so the food pantry seems to me to be a very important charity. I happen to love bike riding so it made me happy to do something charitable while doing something I love.
It’s not too late to join the Ride, whether as a rider, hiker, donor or sponsor. Please visit www.ridetofighthunger.com or call 201-837-9090 for more information and help JFCS battle food insecurity—one mile at a time.