ITHACA, N.Y. — After the success of last year’s ‘Presents on the Commons’, the treasure hunt organized by local business Ithacash is making a comeback as ‘The Holiday Hunger Game.”

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The Ithacash team hopes that the event, which began Dec 3 and will last until Dec. 31, will support downtown businesses and raise awareness on the issue of food security.

“Last year we ran what we called ‘Presents on the Commons’. It was kind of a play on words because the Commons were under construction and they were really struggling with all the foot traffic that they lost. It was really for the whole downtown district, including the Dewitt Mall,” Scott Morris, founder of Ithacash, said.

The goal of ‘Presents on the Commons’ was to encourage Ithacans to go downtown for their holiday shopping, earn new regional currency, Ithaca Dollars, and make a donation to a charity of their choice.

“We hid these little presents […] inside the stores. The people would go from store to store and find the presents. They would get stickers on their map and then each sticker was worth i$5 [5 Ithaca dollars] for them and i$1 to donate to a nonprofit of their choice,” Morris said.

According to Morris, this year’s participants will obtain i$4 for themseves and i$2 for the nonprofit. They will also get bonus stickers for pre-purchasing food items for people who are experiencing hunger through Ithacash’s “Pay It Forward” menu at the Downtown Visitor Center.

The food can be selected from pre-purchased items at the Ithacash table, located in the Downtown Visitor Center  from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

The event is inspired by the popular adventure novels and movie series ‘The Hunger Games.” 

Morris said the idea is that people can easily relate to these themed events, like they did with Wizarding Weekend, when Press Bay Alley was transformed into a version of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley for Halloween. Ithacash was one of the businesses featured at that event.

Scott Morris (center) and his colleagues at Ithacash fold maps of ‘The Holiday Hunger Game.’ (Provided photo)’

“[At Wizarding Weekend] we represented Gringotts Bank. It sounds like we will continue to be Gringotts Bank for years to come. That worked so well for us because we have accounts and use local currency, so we were opening ‘vaults’ and teaching people about ‘magic money’,” Morris said.

For ‘The Holiday Hunger Game’, Ithacash partnered with businesses Downtown, in Collegetown, as well as Serviente Glass and Historic Ithaca. According to Morris, there are 61 total locations and 74 possible stickers to collect. The complete list of participating locations can be found on the Ithacash website: https://ithacash.com/hunger/

Morris said that the event is part of the broader goal that Ithacash wants to attain for 2016.

“The focus on food security is kind of foreshadowing for 2016 when we are going to focus a lot more on the issue by establishing a food network. Everyone can get behind making sure people have enough to eat,” Morris said.

The Ithacash team hopes that people will take advantage of the game to discover shops that they do not know yet.

“It’s free for people to participate [in ‘The Holiday Hunger Game’] so it’s really just a fun way – especially because a lot of people are going to do their Christmas shopping anyway – to get people in stores where maybe they haven’t gone before and they get money out of it, so… everybody’s winning,” Ithacash employee Beline Falzon said.

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