Hunger Action Month: Food Bank of Southeastern VA sees 18% increase in need during pandemic

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The warehouse for the Food Bank of Southeastern Virginia on Tidewater Drive in Norfolk is stacked full of all kinds of food, from canned goods to fresh produce.

The food will fill dinner tables around south Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore.

Officials say last year this food bank distributed more than 17.5 million pounds of food.

Chief Impact Officer Emma Inman says during the pandemic they saw the local need for food assistance increase by 18%.

“In our service area, there are about 44,000 children alone who are experiencing food insecurity” explained Inman. “There are nearly 135,000 people across south Hampton Roads who may not have enough access to food for them to live a healthy lifestyle.”

The Food Bank of Southeastern Virginia serves 11 cities.

They stack their shelves with food in a number of ways including food drives, donations from grocery stores, and purchasing items to fill in the gaps.

As the need increased during the pandemic, Inman says donations declined. This caused operating costs to increase significantly.

“The pandemic has had a significant impact on our donations. If you think about what grocery store shelves looked like for much of the pandemic, they were nearly empty. Which meant that our grocery retail partners did not have food products that they were able to donate to us. That significantly drove up the amount that the foodbank had to spend purchasing food to ensure that we were able to serve our community. Similarly, businesses that hold food drives that support the food bank, if the business was closed and employees were working from home, those food drives did not occur.”

Safely distributing food with social distancing provided it’s own set of challenges.

Inman says they held more mobile pantries where people in need could drive up and have a box of fresh food loaded into their trunks.

During the month of September, Inman encourages people to get involved with the food bank by volunteering or donating, and if you’re unable to give time or money she says they always need help spreading awareness.

“We also need you to use your voice, use your social media channels, talk about hunger and food insecurity.”

For more information, click here.

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