NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore held a virtual simulation to educate elected officials about the impacts of policies on hunger.

In conjunction with Hunger Action Month and Elected Official Engagement Day, the organization demonstrated how problems like the racial wealth gap are seen in the community.

“The racial wealth gap is sort of the difference between the median net worth of a white household versus a Black household or people who are not already living in poverty. There’s a 13 to 1 difference,” said Leah Williams-Rumbley, who is the senior director of advocacy for the food bank.

Williams-Rumbley says that difference is thousands of dollars, which can mean having food or not on the table for some families of color.

Friday’s simulation included how that gap is impacted by policies lawmakers put into place.

“Ending hunger isn’t just about feeding people. It’s about changing policies and practices that contribute to that happening in the first place,” she said.

Williams-Rumbley highlighted federal and state laws such as the Farm Bill and the Children Nutrition Reauthorization Act as policies that impact people’s ability to eat.

Policies revolving around food and nutrition aren’t the only thing that can affect their goal to eradicate hunger.

Williams-Rumbley says things such as the minimum wage make a difference.

“People would be able to do a better job of putting food on the table with better minimum wage,” she said.

The food bank serves around 200,000 people a year, but Williams-Rumbley says their numbers have doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

On top of the pandemic, she says more people have been interested in learning more about hunger, especially since one of their closest neighborhoods recently became a food desert.

“While this is a conversation we’ve been having for sometime, the racial unrest in our country has brought it to our forefront and caused the community at large interested in and unpacking what caused racial wealth gap and hunger,” she said.

Williams-Rumbley encourages people to learn more about the food bank and says there are many ways to help.

“Donate food, donate funds, donate time and what may be a little newer to people is donate your voice,” she said. “We need you to get on board and contact your legislators about things that are coming down the pipeline.”

September is also Hunger Action Month. To learn more about hunger advocacy, click here.

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