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Bridgeport Food Pantry to hold sixth annual duck race

Volunteers dump the plastic ducks used in the Bridgeport Food Pantry’s annual duck race out onto the pavement in the parking lot behind St. Francis Church to dry after pulling them out of Chittenango Creek after last year’s race. The event usually raises around $25,000 for the pantry.

Volunteers dump the plastic ducks used in the Bridgeport Food Pantry’s annual duck race out onto the pavement in the parking lot behind St. Francis Church to dry after pulling them out of Chittenango Creek after last year’s race. The event usually raises around $25,000 for the pantry. Photo by Sarah Hall.

— Every year in early September, Chittenango Creek in Bridgeport gets clogged with brightly colored ducks.

It’s not some new kind of invasive species; this particular invasion is temporary. These ducks, made of colored plastic, are part of the Bridgeport Food Pantry’s annual “Don’t Duck Hunger” duck race, which raises money to support the pantry’s mission. The event typically raises about $25,000.

“There’s just such a desperate need right now,” said Patti Hedrick, food pantry coordinator. “Every month, I get 10 new families. People work, but they can’t afford to eat.”

The pantry, which serves the towns of Sullivan, Cicero and Manlius, has an Election Day spaghetti dinner fundraiser as well as a corned beef and cabbage dinner on St. Patrick’s Day, but they needed a large fundraiser to fill their coffers. That’s when Hedrick came up with the idea to race plastic ducks in Chittenango Creek, located right behind the pantry on Route 298. People “adopt” a duck for $5, then volunteers set the lot of them loose in the creek. The owner of the duck that crosses the finish line first wins a prize, and all proceeds go to the pantry. And the pantry uses that money to buy its food from the Food Bank of Central New York.

“As the local food pantry, we have to pay for 90 percent of the food we give out,” Hedrick said. “Yes, people or businesses donate canned foods, garden surplus or breads, but this only adds up to 10 percent of the food, and the rest of the food has to be purchased from the CNY Food Bank or specials from local markets.”

And the pantry needs more food every year. From July of 2011 to July of 2012, the pantry served 72,230 meals. In the same period from 2013 to 2014, it served more than 100,000.

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