NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — When school is out for a day or a week or even the weekend, some students may not have access to food at home. That’s why some local groups are working to fill in the gaps.
Hampton Roads Community Action Program has several food pantries on the Peninsula in Newport News and Hampton, and they also partner with the Foodbank.
HRCAP says about 80% of their clients come from public housing and are served through their Head Start early education programs or through their whole family approach program.
They recently received a $25,000 grant from No Kid Hungry Virginia to help with their mission.
About one in 10 kids across Virginia faces food insecurity, and on the Peninsula that number is higher.
That’s why No Kid Hungry Virginia believes it’s essential to invest in programs such as HRCAP, that are helping to fill in the gaps.
“Our north star is making sure that all kids have access to 3 meals a day, 365 days a year,” said Director of No Kid Hungry Virginia Sarah Steely.
“It’s all about making sure we have fresh produce, grocery assistance and food because a lot of times there are a lot of children that go home hungry and through this grant it gives us that opportunity to fill that gap in need,” said HRCAP Chief Operating Officer Kevin Otey.
Hampton Roads Community Action Program works to help keep families fed, from the youngest members to the oldest.
“A lot of families don’t want to be able to say they don’t know where their next meal is coming from so we open our doors so they can come in at any time to take care of their personal needs,” Otey said.
Otey says most of the people they reach are either served in one of their Head Start programs or through the whole family approach program.
“This fund allows us to build on the current needs that are in our community,” Otey said.
“We hope these grants can reach programs like HRCAP, like school nutrition departments and Boys and Girls clubs and YMCAs and just really make sure were doing everything we can to make sure kids are nourished,” Steely said.
No Kid Hungry Virginia says in some parts of Hampton Roads one in four kids are hungry. They also gave $25,000 to Norfolk Public Schools.
“It could be an older sibling skipping a meal so the younger siblings can eat, it can be the pantry being empty by the end of the month or before the next paycheck,” said Steely.
HRCAP says about 80% of the people they serve live in public housing, but no matter the income, they are there to serve the entire family.
They also serve areas that are predominantly food deserts and many of those people live at least 20 minutes from a grocery store.
“A lot of them are also getting food from the convenience store so now this will give us access so they don’t have to worry about how they’re going to get to the grocery store,” Otey said.
They work to feed people through their 22 various food pantries across the Peninsula and programs. They serve about 2 million meals a year and annually they help out about 10,000 people.
They can also deliver fresh food to families who don’t have access to transportation.
“Within a 10-mile radius of our two food pantries we can DoorDash food directly to that home in need,” Otey said. “Sometimes it can take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes to get to our office and it’s less than a five mile drive because they have to take various buses and so this partnership with DoorDash allows us to make sure its delivered timely and efficiently.”
The money will also go to help with HRCAP’s backpack program for kids. This helps them reach siblings and students who may not attend one of their Head Start Programs.
They also have evening programs that provide dinner and snacks to families who come. They believe it’s important to have programs for youth who might need something to do.
“This grant gives us that opportunity to provide one more additional opportunity for youth to stay off the streets and provide safe environments where we can make sure they are addressed with food, entertainment, and a mentorship program,” Otey said. “This grant just allows us to serve more and more youth and families throughout these hard times of where we are facing gun violence in the community.”