NORFOLK, Va. — The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore is adjusting its programs to provide fresh fruits, vegetables, and non-perishable foods to people who are struggling to make ends meet.
The organization had to find a different way to help Hampton Roads' most needy families, which they say includes those who are most affected by COVID-19.
With help from a federal grant, The Foodbank is working with Open Norfolk's program to provide pop-up pantries. They meet families outdoors at assigned parklets.
"We've been staffing their kiosks every Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 to 11 am at both the Broad Creek and Norview/Five Points locations, and we've been giving out fresh produce and non-perishables," said Meaghan Butler, a registered dietician with the Foodbank.
She added, "People were just so grateful to have something like that available in their neighborhood especially, and we are still able to maintain social distancing."
Butler said COVID-19 has taken so much from the community, so the organization is working to erase the stigma and make sure those who need help, get it.
"We had a lot of young parents coming to say, 'Thanks so much.' I didn't formerly need support and never thought of myself as someone who would've gone to a foodbank," Butler said.
Butler stressed the importance of keeping our immune systems strong especially during times like these, and eating healthy is a big part of that.
"So really receiving adequate nutrition is imperative for children to reach their full growth potential, so it's especially important now and only being highlighted more as the statistics come out about racial inequities and health disparities that the coronavirus has highlighted."
Child food insecurity is already a big problem, but with the pandemic, Foodbank officials say it's really gotten worse.
Butler said, "In 2018, we had a food insecurity rate among children at about 16 percent. Feeding America now estimates that need has gone up by 10 percent because of the pandemic and estimates about 26 percent of children in our area now qualify as being food insecure."
Until there's a clear plan for the fall school year, the organization will have to adapt to meet the needs of children who rely on meals at school.
Butler told us, "Some of our upcoming distributions, we will partner with school administrations to distribute food directly to homes. It's forcing us to be innovative to meet the needs of families that need food."
Butler added The Foodbank is also bracing for more people once the maximum SNAP government assistance benefit runs out, which may be at the end of July.
The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia relies heavily on food and monetary donations. You can donate on their website.