PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — These days, cars line up 2,000 or 3,000 deep at drive-thru distribution sites set up by Mercy Chefs across the country. They sit in the summer heat waiting for a box of groceries.
“It sort of speaks to the need,” said Mercy Chef President and Founder Gary LeBlanc. “I mean no one is going to sit in the car for four hours for food for convenience.”
This is one way Mercy Chefs, a faith-based nonprofit, provides food for families. They also prepare hot meals in their Portsmouth kitchen and freeze them.
“We did a million meals in our first 10 years. We did another million meals in the following three years. Well, we’ve already done a million meals this year alone,” LeBlanc told WAVY.com.
Since mid-March when the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the United States, Mercy Chefs has served at least 1.9 million meals. 200,000 of those meals were distributed in Hampton Roads.
Mercy Chefs partners with local organizations including senior services, the HER shelter, and ForKids. Mercy Chefs is also reaching rural areas of Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi. LeBlanc says they deliver to the elderly, shut-ins and single Moms.
“A lady in particular I remember, she has a master’s degree and she’s a very capable, self-sufficient mom and business person, but she’s been out of work since the beginning of COVID and our grocery distribution program has made all the difference in her life and her kid’s lives,” he said.
He said the organization is only limited by its resources. Right now, they are getting creative as grocery prices are going up and food is in short supply. They use whatever they can get.
“Maybe [certain food is] going to be there today. Maybe it’s not, whether that’s eggs, or chicken, or dairy or beef,” he said.
One thing that will definitely be there is the growing number of people who need help from Mercy Chefs.
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