OCC bike riders roll out food to help Costa Mesa’s needy

It was 6:30 a.m. the day before Thanksgiving, but Orange Coast College student Mukhtar Noory wasn’t ready for his holiday break just yet.

Before sitting down to a meal with his family on Thursday, he and other members of the OCC Food Riders Club took time Wednesday to make sure that less-fortunate people in Costa Mesa had something to eat.

For seven years, the club at the Costa Mesa college has been delivering leftovers from the campus cafeteria to nearby food pantries in a way that’s ecofriendly and provides the volunteers with some exercise.

They strap on their helmets and fingerless gloves and deliver it all by bicycle, pulling trailers full of goods.

“If I have to give up a Wednesday to bring food and help feed people, I think it’s worth it,” said Noory, 20.

Throughout the school year, the members help package and transport food two days a week to Share Our Selves and Lighthouse Church of the Nazarene, both in Costa Mesa.

Orange Coast College librarian and club advisor Carl Morgan said the holiday season can generate a lot of leftovers among the on-campus faculty and awards parties that the college’s food services department caters.

“We had no idea that the cafeteria had way more excess food than we realize, and I think that’s the case for any service operation,” Morgan said. “I think a lot of it ends up in a landfill somewhere.”

At about 7:25 a.m. Wednesday, Morgan, Noory and OCC student Roy Duvall met in the school’s food services building.

Duvall, 63, who began attending Orange Coast College three years ago after retiring as a project manager for an engineering company, began weighing plastic bags full of chicken and veal to see how much weight the cyclists would be carrying on their morning ride.

“Sometimes it’s 80 pounds and sometimes it’s 300 pounds,” Duvall said. “It’s a bit like ‘Forrest Gump’ — you never know what you’re gonna get.”

On Wednesday, they got 171/2 pounds of meat.

The club focuses mostly on delivering protein, since food pantries generally have vegetables “coming out of their ears,” Duvall said.

For Wednesday’s ride, Morgan wore the official OCC Food Riders Club shirt and sweatshirt, featuring a stick figure riding a bike with orange slices for wheels.

Club members who go on five rides get the shirt. Fifteen rides earn a sweatshirt.

After Morgan, Noory and Duvall loaded their bike trailers with meat, cheese sauce and pastries, they headed to the library to pick up cans of peanut butter and tuna from OCC’s canned-food drive.

Shortly before 8:30 a.m., Dylan Larkin, a new member on his first ride, and former student Yousuf Elgohary met the three cyclists to help make deliveries.

Larkin said he decided to join the club after his friend Basant ElGhayati, who joined the riders later Wednesday morning, suggested it.

Elgohary, the club’s former president who transferred to New York University to study nursing, said he recently returned to OCC on his holiday break for a ride down memory lane.

At around 9 a.m., the riders took off to their destination, Lighthouse Church on Anaheim Avenue.

The riders glided single file down Harbor Boulevard, Wilson Street, Pomona Avenue and finally Plumer Street toward the church.

At the end of their 31/2-mile journey, they added their stock to the church food pantry’s supply of stuffing, mashed potato mix, macaroni and cheese and other items.

Lighthouse offers hot meals and showers to those in need.

“We’re helping out homeless people while doing it in a sustainable way,” ElGhayati said. “It’s also a healthy workout.”

At around 9:45 a.m., ElGhayati hopped back on her bike for the return to OCC.

This was her fifth ride, meaning completing it would get her a new club shirt.

Twitter: @AlexandraChan10