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'CHIditarod' cart race raises money and awareness for food insecurity

Based in Chicago, CHIditarod is a 100% volunteer-driven annual urban shopping cart race fundraising event, raising awareness for food insecurity.
Posted at 7:15 PM, Mar 06, 2023

You’ve probably heard of the Iditarod, the long-distance dog race in Alaska, but what if you swapped out dogs for people? 

Instead of sleds, creatively decorated shopping carts run this race. 

"CHIditarod, welcomes ladies and gentlemen, boy and girls and everyone in between," said Devin Breen, the co-founder and musher in chief at CHIditarod. 

Based in Chicago, CHIditarod is a 100% volunteer-driven annual urban shopping cart race that’s part bar crawl, costume contest, food drive and fundraising event that addresses food insecurity.  

A trip to Burning Man and a costume shopping cart race in New York City inspired Breen. 

"And I said, 'wow, that's a great idea. We're going to do that here in Chicago, but we're going to do it a little bit differently. Instead of running from the police, from checkpoint to checkpoint, we're going to run for charity, prizes and glory.'"

CHIditarod has been a glorious Chicago staple. In its 18th year, 2023 is the first time they’re back to racing in-person since the pandemic started.  

"This is definitely one of our longest running food drives and one of our longest running partnerships and certainly one of the most fun," said Ashley Lundgren, the marketing manager at The Greater Chicago Food Depository.

On race day each five-person team must bring 69 pounds of non-perishable food in their cart to the starting line.  

The greater Chicago Food Depository says one pound equates to one meal for a family. CHIditarod says they donated more than 156,000 pounds of food to the food bank since 2006.

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"There's a lot of folks who are turning to a food pantry for the first time in their lives. And I just want to emphasize that that is why we are there," Lundgren said. 

Dan Brown and his team spent two months building a massive cart. 

"We've been doing this for 15 years and it gets harder and harder every year to raise the bar. Sometimes we go full, full size and then just have to get bigger and bigger," Brown said. 

The race stretches for five miles, and has five bars as checkpoints. A portion of the bars' profits also go to the cause. 

"As a civil engineer. I'm normally very serious and for one day a year, I get to be a fun idiot. With no responsibilities — well, I have to be responsible of these guys. But, hey, it's fun," said Trudy Bueher, a CHIditarod participant. 

This year the event also raised about $133,000 for CHIditarod’s grant program aimed to end hunger. 

"Since inception we've given out almost $500,000 in grants to fight hunger in Chicago, all around the city and the suburbs. And that's really what keeps me coming back," Breen said.  

It’s Mayjourio Pope’s 7th year participating. Pope says when he was a kid he was in a homeless shelter in the south side. 

"As someone that grew up in an environment that really required that assistance, this is my way of giving back," Pope said. 

Pope says through organizations like GCFD and CHIditarod, he was able to get the support he needed at that time. Now, he gives back, dressed as a skydiver.  

CHIditarod has found a way to make it a bright, vibrant cause, a call to arms, if you will, to inform the public. You know, people can't help but see us walking around in our costumes. We're like, 'what is this?'" Pope said. 

While it is a race, the point is not to be the fastest, but rather to have fun for a good cause.