Fraternity bikes 56 hours for hunger

In an effort to raise awareness about nationwide and worldwide hunger, members of UCSD’s chapter of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity rode bicycles for 56 consecutive hours on Library Walk, beginning at 8 a.m on Feb. 19 and ending at 5 p.m. on Feb. 21. The proceeds raised through donations from local businesses and through students’ purchasing of raffle tickets, which totaled $2,300, will benefit Mazon, a national hunger relief charity.

Sarah Averbach

This year’s event was the fourth annual hunger relief bike-a-thon organized by the fraternity and the largest yet with an added free concert in Price Center Plaza, which culminated the event on Feb. 21.

“”It’s fantastic — it was the fraternity’s idea to do this, and that’s something that we try to encourage in campuses across the country,”” said Mazon spokesperson Jeremy Deutchman.

According to Alpha Epsilon Pi Chapter President Adam Myers, the idea came about when North Carolina professor David Altman decided to ride his bicycle across the country in 1999 to bring the problem of hunger into the media limelight, raising an endowment for Mazon in the process. The fraternity, said Myers, felt that holding a bike-a-thon would be an appropriate way to greet Altman when he reached San Diego.

Sarah Averbach

“”Hunger is sort of an invisible issue; you don’t see tons about it in the media,”” Deutchman said. “”Altman got people talking about hunger, and people saw him as an example.””

Mazon, which calls itself “”a Jewish response to hunger,”” collects donations primarily from Jewish communities across the United States and distributes over $3 million annually to more than 260 organizations fighting hunger nationally and internationally, with help going to people of all faiths.

“”I feel that a lot of the political tension that goes on is often caused by people being at an economic disadvantage,”” said Alpha Epsilon Pi Chapter Philantrophy Chair and event organizer Daniel Alyeshmerni. “”People in third-world countries see people in the United States having so much, and they resent it, so if we can work to help feed people and make them happier with their situation, I think we can diffuse some of the political tension non-forcefully.””

According to Myers, every member of the fraternity participated by biking for one-hour intervals.

“”In the middle of the night, we didn’t have much of an audience, but we had our most fun when we were sleep-deprived,”” Alyeshmerni said. “”In the day, though, a lot of people actually came up and said, ‘What you are doing here has touched my heart,’ and that made us feel really good.””

The group’s booth handed out literature on hunger and sold raffle tickets, with top prizes including Ben Harper concert tickets and a Kaplan course. Up to 12 bikes were used at once, and members of UCSD sororities and other student organizations joined the effort throughout the three days, competing with each other to raise as much as possible.

The free concert showcased the bands Feedback, Phoenix Rising, State of Beyond, Oedipus and Aaron Coleman Experience. Feedback is composed of Alpha Epsilon Pi members, while the other bands included UCSD students and local talent.

Alpha Epsilon Pi is a national Jewish interest fraternity. According to Deutchman, Mazon receives help from many college campus organizations, the foremost being Hillel. However, Mazon’s defining characteristic is that it asks Jewish families to donate 3 percent of the cost of weddings, bar mitzvahs and other life-cycle events. The charity donates to several California-based efforts, including the Western Center of Law and Poverty, which litigates to increase food stamps and protect benefits for low-income families; the Los Angeles-based group Operation USA, which gives micro-credit loans to women starting up food enterprises in the poorest regions of Vietnam; and San Diego’s own Senior Community Centers, which provide home-delivered meals to low-income residents.

Myers said that the fraternity would continue its effort next year, and hopes to see it continue to grow.

“”Doing this for four years and seeing the popularity of the event increase is a positive thing for our group as a whole,”” Myers said. “”The campus’ familiarity with this event has grown, and it’s helping to remind people that there are those in the world who are hungry.””