Monday, January 17, 2022

The Virginia Peninsula Foodbank continues to struggle for donations. Here’s why

Food Lion has recently stepped up their donations this fiscal year. (WYDaily/courtesy of the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank)
Food Lion has recently stepped up their donations this fiscal year. (WYDaily/courtesy of the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank)

You may not notice them, but they’re your neighbors, your children’s classmates, or the family who lives next door.

Some have jobs. Some are unemployed. Some are going through a life change, and others are simply just trying make ends meet.

They all have one thing in common: Hunger.

And the one place they probably go for assistance is struggling to stock its shelves.

“In the summertime we’re always begging for food,” said Karen Joyner, the foodbank’s CEO. “Because people forget that people are hungry all year round.”

The Virginia Peninsula Foodbank is a service that provides meals for people across the Peninsula, but this past year filling those stomachs has been even more of a struggle.

In previous years, local Farm Fresh locations had provided an average of a million pounds of food to the foodbank annually. But in the summer of 2018, many of those stores closed and the foodbank lost a significant amount of resources.

A year later, and they’re still struggling to fill that gap.

“The summertime through early fall is always a low point for us,” Joyner said. “But with the loss of Farm Fresh it’s even lower than normal. So we just have to make it through to November when people start doing food drives.”

Joyner said the summer can be especially difficult for many families because children are out of school and this can sometimes cause food bills to double.

In addition to that loss from Farm Fresh, the foodbank’s donated inventory has decreased by 33 percent.

From Aug. 1, 2018 to July 31, 2019, the foodbank was down 665,000 pounds of food, or 546,000 meals, from the previous year. While stores like Food Lion and Publix have been pitching in to help more this year, the loss of Farm Fresh has still left the foodbank in short supply.

To supplement that shortage, Joyner said the foodbank is having to buy food, which takes money away from other needed areas. 

In addition, it also causes a greater expense because the foodbank is spending more money on providing nutritious meals.

Part of the issue is that there’s so little coming through donations, whatever is bought automatically is used.

“It comes in and goes back out right away,” she said.

While Joyner said they’re happy with anything people want to donate, she said they mostly get a lot of canned food and meat which doesn’t provide for a well-balanced diet. Now, the foodbank is having to go out and buy produce, peanut butter, cereal and other dry goods that haven’t been coming in.

As school prepares to start, Joyner said that’s going to become even more of an issue because the foodbank’s backpack program, which provides nutritious meals to food insecure students on the weekends and holidays, distributes 1,900 backpacks to students across the Peninsula. All of which need to be filled.  

As the summer comes to a close, Joyner said the foodbank is just trying to make it through to the holiday season when donations typically increase.

“People are hungry now,” she said. “People are hungry all year.”

To learn more about how to donate, visit the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank online.

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Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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