'Transformational year': Local foodbank provides 16 million meals to families in need during pandemic

Virginia Peninsula Food Bank MLK Day Food Collection
Posted at 9:48 AM, Feb 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-22 07:55:36-05

NORFOLK, Va. - The annual report for the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore revealed that the organization had a record-breaking meal distribution year.

The organization was able to navigate the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic as it experienced significant declines in volunteers, donated food product and partner agencies — combined with rising food prices and significant increases in the numbers of individuals experiencing food insecurity.

“With the rapid decline in volunteers — dropping from 8,600 to 3,300 — and the challenges presented by the pandemic, we had to strategically leverage existing services, implement new programs and enhance our partnerships with volunteers to extend our reach into the hardest-hit communities,” said aid Emma Inman, Chief Impact Officer of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore.

The Foodbank distributed 19.1 million lb of food, which makes nearly 16 million meals, despite the obstacles thrown at them.

Inman stated that, "For much of the year, we have continued our emergency distribution to those experiencing food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while also expanding our focus to uncover the root causes of hunger in our communities.”

2020-2021 marked the highest distribution year in the organization’s history. As part of that record-breaking number, the Foodbank also distributed 5.3 million pounds of fresh produce.

The Foodbank launched three food hubs in low-income African American, rural and Latino communities last year as part of its Food Plus initiative.

The food hubs are located in centers throughout Hampton Roads: The Wesley Community Center in Portsmouth, the Young Terrace Community Center in Norfolk and the Mary N. Smith Cultural Center in Accomack.

The hubs offer food plus holistic wraparound services, including workforce development, financial literacy, health services, GED classes and more that help to address the root causes of food insecurity.

During the 2020-2021 year period, the food hubs provided more than 180,000 meals and offered services to help those experiencing food insecurity.

The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore also bolstered relationships with faith-based partners and launched a new 757 Mobile Market, a farmer’s market on wheels, that now travels into communities most disparately impacted by food insecurity.

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Related: Food banks across Hampton Roads impacted by supply chain crisis, inflation