GREATER WILLIAMSBURG — Since most Farm Fresh stores closed their doors on the Peninsula, the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank has been struggling to make up for the donations the grocery chain brought in.
Farm Fresh was the foodbank’s third largest donor, and without them, the foodbank has lost about 113,000 pounds of food in the first two months of the 2019 fiscal year, which started July 1, said Karen Joyner, CEO of the Peninsula Foodbank.
“On a store-by-store basis they were all pretty generous,” Joyner said. “Between the donations they gave to us and our partner agencies, as well as the fact they were selling $5 bags customers can buy [and donate], those all get counted in the food that was donated.”
The loss equates to about 94,000 meals, Joyner said.
In Greater Williamsburg alone, the foodbank has received 20,000 pounds – or 16,700 meals – fewer in food donations than it received at this time last year.
More than 17,000 pounds of that loss are the directly result of Farm Fresh stores closing in Grafton and on John Tyler Highway in James City County, Joyner said.
The remaining Farm Fresh stores are still donating to the foodbank, Joyner said. The Farm Fresh in Norge, which is now operating independently, has continued to donate to the foodbank but at a lower level than before.
In Greater Williamsburg, Joyner said other supermarkets have maintained their prior donation levels.
Still, their contributions don’t make up for the loss of Farm Fresh stores, Joyner said.
“We look forward to the opening of the Publix store to replace that Martin’s,” Joyner said in an email. “They have already contacted the Foodbank and have come for a tour of our facilities. Publix is well-known for their generosity towards foodbanks.”
Food Lion is still their largest donor, she added.
The Virginia Peninsula Foodbank has tried to tackle the donation deficit with unpaid advertising.
The foodbank doesn’t have the budget to pay for advertising, Joyner said, so they rely on unpaid avenues to get the word out.
“It makes more sense for people to donate cash versus the food,” Joyner said. “We can do more with the money than we could with the food because of the buying power.”
Money goes a lot further than food donations because the foodbank can purchase bulk items cheaper, she added.
Another way the foodbank is going to handle the loss of Farm Fresh donations is to cut back on the amount of meals they serve.
Joyner said she wants people to understand that being hungry is a year-round problem.
She hopes donations will increase with the upcoming school year, but she’d like the community to be engaged all year with donations.
September is Hunger Action Month and the foodbank will be participating in several efforts to raise awareness and donations.
To donate or learn more about the Peninsula Foodbank, click here.