Spotlight: Supermarket Street Sweep

Eric and Cooper Downing crossing the finish line! Photo courtesy of Supermarket Street Sweep

December 3rd was a beautiful Saturday afternoon at the Food Bank. We had a clear sky, the sun was shining, and a father and son arrived on a tandem bicycle…pulling four full shopping carts full of food to donate!

Cargo race winners and tandem cyclists Eric Downing and his seven-year old son Cooper Sprocket Downing were not alone. They were part of the 201 bicyclists participating in the 6th Annual Supermarket Street Sweep!  Each year, participants crisscross the city visiting local supermarkets and bringing back thousands of pounds of donated groceries. This year, everyone was excited about the results: almost 7,990 pounds of food was collected and $9,652 was raised.

The Downings were an impressive sight, hauling their train of shopping carts engineered to move and turn in unison on their bicycle-built-for-two. Eric, an architect and former professional cyclist, has passed on his passion for cycling and charitable work to his son Cooper Sprocket (who is named after the toothed wheel a bike’s chain rides along). This was their second year in the race – they came back to avenge their narrow defeat last year by hauling in even more food to donate to the Food Bank.

Eric told us, “This is an extra special race. Jennifer [Oh Hatfield] is phenomenal. She puts this whole thing together. We are indebted to her for creating a race that supports the Food Bank.” While there are lots of bicycle races out there, Eric told us “This is the most selfless race I’ve ever participated in, it’s wonderful!”

photo of Eric and Cooper by Jonathan Koshi http://www.flickr.com/photos/koshi/

Jennifer Oh Hatfield who organizes the race every year (with co-organizers Kacey O’Kelly, Jonathan Koshi, and Mike Spencer) wanted to create an event that was “…both a fun and useful way for Bay Area cyclists to help a great cause.” She was impressed by Eric and Cooper, telling us, “It’s great that we have families come out. Eric and Cooper were determined to do well this year and they showed up with an ingenious shopping cart train to win the cargo race!” Proud of her racers as well as her volunteers, Jennifer added “We are successful because of our great participants, our volunteers who come out to count food and help organize things, and of course our sponsors — a ton from the Bay Area and even nationwide.”

It’s always fun to see how different groups of people pair their interests with charitable acts. The Supermarket Street Sweep is an exciting, competitive way to get cyclists involved with food justice and the Food Bank. “I would like to see this type of race for charity in every community. There are cyclists across the U.S. just as there are people in need across the U.S.,” Eric Downing said.

Finally, when asked what he would say to people to encourage them to join the race next year Cooper Sprocket said “F-U-N-Z-O! Because it’s funzo!”

Race results by year:
2006: 80 racers – 1,172 lbs of food
2007: 110 racers – 1,595 lbs.
2008: 150 racers – 5,266 lbs.
2009: 198 racers – 7,507 lbs.
2010: 171 racers – 6,920 lbs. + $4,877
2011: 201 racers – 7,990 lbs. +$9,652

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