Take Alaska’s Iditarod and set it in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Replace the huskies with hipsters, add a pinch of Halloween, a splash of Mardi Gras. What you end up with is the Chiditarod -- a race that addresses food security and food deserts in Chicago.
The Chiditarod, now in its 7th year, is one of several "Urban Iditarods" but this one is unique in that it serves as a local food drive. 162 teams of shopping cart racers, consisting of four pullers and one musher, participated in Chiditarod VII. The teams decorated their shopping carts and created costumes around themes of their choice. The only requirement is that they should arrive at the finish line with a cart full of non-perishable food items that are donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
After the 2011 race organizers realized that participants of the Chiditarod had voluntarily collected $18,000 as part of their food drives, the money collected was donated to the Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation. For 2012 the choice was made to put their fundraising efforts behind funding an organic community garden in Chicago's Cottage Grove Heights neighborhood.
Watch racers burst out of Chiditarod starting line
The race partnered with Growing Home, a non-profit organization that employs organic agriculture for community development and provides job training skills to individuals who have previously been homeless or incarcerated.
"We are excited to be involved in this campaign that not only provides immediate relief to the hungry, but also has a long-term impact on increasing access to healthy vegetables in Chicago neighborhoods," said Harry Rhodes, Growing Home's Executive Director, in a statement released by the Chiditarod organization.
This past weekend the volunteers and racers collected twenty-five thousand pounds of food for the Greater Chicago Food Depository and $35,000 in donations for the organic garden that will serve as a job training program in one of Chicago's most underserved neighborhoods.