SUNY Oneonta’s second annual Mindful Mile & Fight Hunger 5K event on Sunday, Sept. 23, raised more than $9,300 for the Riverside Elementary School’s Action Hero Backpack Program, a weekend meal-assistance initiative for local children.
The Backpack Program provides food for 107 children on the weekends. Nearly 50 percent of Riverside families receive backpacks, and the program is completely funded by donations from Oneonta community members, with food from local grocery stores.
Riverside Principal Melinda Murdock said the funds raised by the event will help ensure that the program can continue and grow.
“With a school poverty rate hovering around 65 percent, our mission is to support children and their families holistically,” she said. “Providing backpacks filled with three complete family meals every Friday is an important part of this support. A full belly helps foster a healthy mind, and a healthy mind allows people to be at their best.”
More than 200 runners and walkers turned out for the race, which looped around the SUNY Oneonta campus, starting and ending at the Alumni Field House. SUNY Oneonta student Lane Steele finished first with a time of 21:16. Fellow Oneonta student Abigail Williams was right on his tail, crossing the finish line just 4 seconds later.
Participants included groups of SUNY Oneonta student athletes, faculty, staff, alumni, Riverside teachers and other community members. About 40 Riverside children ran or walked in the event, which ended with a full barbecue spread put on by Sodexo.
Sodexo’s partnership with Riverside began last year when Food Network Chef Aaron McCargo Jr. visited SUNY Oneonta classes, prepared his signature dishes in the dining halls, and planned a special dinner, where guests were asked to bring donations of food for the Backpack program. McCargo works with Share Our Strength, an organization that helps nearly 12.6 million American children in their fight against hunger.
“We’re passionate about supporting the Riverside Backpack Program,” said Sodexo General Manager Jimmy Hamm. “It was an eye-opener for me – and I think to all of us – to realize the number of kids in our own community who are going without food.”
The inaugural Mindful Mile & Fight Hunger 5K last year raised more than $2,600 for the Lord’s Table feeding program and Hurricane Harvey relief. At the end of this year’s race, proceeds totaled $9,326, with additional donations still trickling in.
“I am humbled by what I see today,” Murdock told the runners gathered at the award ceremony after the race. “What you have done for us today is not only solidifying this program for this year, but you’ve also helped us into next year. The funds that you have raised today will allow us to give every family a backpack, every week.”