Flashback to elementary school: waiting in line to fill a Styrofoam tray with pizza the texture of cardboard, cold nachos and carton of chocolate milk. Then sit down in a cafeteria filled with the dull roar of peers, some who bare similarly filled trays of “hot lunch,” and others who were lucky enough to receive homemade meals from their parents. Because of their families’ income, many children depend on school lunches to eat. The quality of these lunches is increasingly poor, a problem Adam Williams chooses to face head-on from the seat of his bicycle.
“Sometimes I wouldn’t want to eat because I couldn’t really identify what it was,” the 27-year-old Sonoma State University alum reminisces of his experiences as a grade-schooler. “People who had lunches from home were from a different cast. Lunch became a socialization method.”
Currently resting near Mount Tamalpais, Williams and his colleagues began a 4,500-mile bike ride from his hometown of Brunswick, Maine in order to create a connection between local farmers and public schools, a mission they call FoodCycle. That group included his girlfriend, 27-year-old Leah Kramer Heyman, of Boston.
The perfect combination of his love for the outdoors and bicycling and also intoned with his Environmental Studies degree, Williams came up with the idea a couple years ago and took action last April.
While in college, biking became his main mode of transport. By clocking 15,000 miles on his bike in one year, he used a car very little and had always been intrigued by viewing the country at a more personal level then a road trip. He wanted to see the American people in a self-sustaining fashion while promoting a cause.
“There’s this reality of life when you’re moving at 60-100 miles a day. You’re experiencing so much more that’s around you. You smell so much more, you see and feel everything. The way the weather or road subtly changes. You see more of people, and they in turn are more interested in seeing what you are doing.”
Operating from a nonprofit platform, the group began locally speaking in schools, presenting themselves at farmers markets and posting blogs on their Web site (www.FoodCycleus.com) but hope to become acknowledged on a larger scale. Most of the funding for their trip came from private members, and they are currently close to reaching $10,000 raised for a program to help local farmers produce food specifically for elementary school cafeterias.
Of the hundreds of people they met, support was plentiful on the road, yet Williams remarks, “Some people thought we were crazy and naive, some people thought we were totally inspiring and we were doing really powerful work to change the world.”
With more than 100 pounds of gear to carry each, riding became difficult at times, especially because of the fires and 110-degree heat, but commitment was a strong premise among the troop, as it showed how deeply they believed in their cause.
“We were pedaling something onto people, but also pedaling your bicycle,” he says touching upon the symbolism of their trip. “Even when it was perfect weather, you have to remember it is temporary. Don’t ever get too high, and don’t ever get too low, because it will just be a memory later.”
Since their goal encompasses so much space and time, Williams is unsure at the moment how effective an impact they had on people. But he is accumulating video footage and photos from the road in hopes that awareness of school food quality will become a priority for the country. After touching 15 states and staying with hundreds of people, there is no doubt he has made a memorably contagious impression.