Observing Martin Luther King Jr. Day as “a day on, not a day off,” Newport News Mayor McKinley Price, is hosting the fourth annual “Day of Service Food Drive” at the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank in Hampton.
Price will be at the foodbank unloading donations from cars and greeting patrons from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. along with others he’s recruited for the cause including Newport News Sheriff Gabe Morgan and Del. Marcia Price, D-95th District.
Marcia is the mayor’s daughter.
“Just looking at him [Martin Luther King Jr.] and what he stood for, I thought it was more important than just having luncheons and parades, he was more about service and what can you do for others,” the mayor said.
After looking into different ways to serve while having the most impact on the community, the mayor said he’d decided on the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank when he realized supplies there would quickly become depleted after the holidays.
Since the inaugural event in 2017, Price has hosted the Day of Service Food Drive on MLK Day annually and over the last three years has yielded more than 49,000 meals served to beneficiaries on the Peninsula.
“We need food coming in every week of the year, but unfortunately most of the food comes in November and December and then people kind of forget about it until November-December,” said Karen Joyner, the foodbank’s CEO.
The foodbank mostly relies on donated volunteer hours and Joyner said since the mayor has been sponsoring the event, the Day of Service has become one of the busiest days for volunteers with this year’s signup reflecting more than 100 residents ready to dedicate their day off to “a day on.”
With a critical need for people to fill more than 1,500 backpacks to go home with students every weekend and nearly 1,100 food boxes for low-income senior citizens and 3,000 bags of special USDA food for their mobile food pantry program monthly, Joyner said the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event has become a prime opportunity to recruit regulars and encourage them to dedicate hours throughout the rest of the year.
And, with drive-up donation drop off, a full-day isn’t required to complete a day of service.
Joyner said she converts the final donation count to instead show the number of meals received as the foodbank also accepts monetary donations. At last year’s event, Joyner found the more than $5,000 and 6,000 pounds of food donated yielded a record high of nearly 27,000 meals.
This year, she said her personal goal is to surpass the last with at least 30,000 meals.
“Our food donations have gone down over the years for various reasons…it’s very critical to those we serve that we continue to bring in food and continue to bring in money so we can buy food when we don’t get it donated to us,” she said.
Nonperishable food items including canned tuna, chicken, or ham, canned vegetables, pasta meals and sauces, and canned fruit or fruit cups are encouraged for donations. Cases of water, glass containers, and food items expired for more than a year are discouraged.
The mayor, then sheriff, and other officials will be at the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank, 2401 Aluminum Ave., on Jan. 20 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Click here to see more information on the food items needed most.