Over the Thanksgiving holiday, a lot of businesses including most food banks and pantries are closed until normal business hours resume Monday — “but, hunger doesn’t end when people’s vacations begin,” said Brother Tim Luken, director of the Five Loaves Food Pantry in Newport News.
With Five Loaves being 100 percent volunteer-run, Luken has the capability to organize the manpower that will pick up food from local stores, including Food Lion and Trader Joe’s, in their third annual “Black Friday” food distribution event Nov. 29.
Typically known as a holiday for retail hysteria, Luken said because the food pantries that would typically pick up are closed Friday, Five Loaves volunteers will hit 17, rather than their usual four stores to salvage goods that would otherwise be thrown away.
Last year, the volunteers would “reclaim” about 4,000 pounds of perishable foods, or what Luken described as items that aren’t necessarily “picture perfect.”
“The fruits and vegetables that we get are those that are ‘about to turn’ so they’re still good,” he said.
“It’s the same thing with meats…they have to be cooked or frozen by a certain date. Well, our stores get fresh meat so they pull that meat, freeze it, and then give it to us to pass out to our clients who can then take it home and keep it frozen or can eat it.”
The pantry also distributes canned foods that may have exceeded their “best by” date but are not “expired,” and even promotional items like the Halloween candy that’s no longer in-season to be sold on shelves.
With last year’s event serving 121 familie — and Luken said they’re expecting at least 80 more than that at this year’s event — the team shouldn’t have any issues Friday when they hand out the nearly 2,000 pounds of candy intended for repurposing in Christmas stockings
“The vast majority come for that season in life when they need help and then we don’t see them again because they’re out of their season of receiving,” he said. “We’ve had people come back later and now are in the season of giving, or now they want to give back because when they needed it we were there.”
Outside the holiday season, Five Loaves passes out perishable groceries including fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and bread from Panera at the Hampton Roads Church in Newport News Monday through Friday starting at 10:45 a.m.
The pantry also offers patrons a hot meal on Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. at the same time they supply canned foods and meats.
As a Ministry of LivingStone Priory and with volunteers only, the organization is able to serve more than 1,600 families per year and maintain what Luken said was a $1.7 million operation with just $23,000 in donations.
“Five Loaves does not have overhead, i.e. payroll, health benefits, rent, and utilities,” he said in a news release. “All monies received go directly to serving clients; gas, vehicle maintenance, insurance, and other necessary expenses.”
Whether in the season of receiving or the season of giving, Five Loaves Food Pantry will be passing out food at 14425 Old Courthouse Way from 11:30 a.m. until they run out.
Volunteers who are able to pick up, set-up, sort, handout, or clean up for Five Loaves’ Black Friday event can find more information by clicking here.