WILLIAMSBURG — Williamsburg House of Mercy‘s new warehouse space for food collection and distribution will become the Upper Peninsula hub of fighting food insecurity.
The Food Project warehouse is a direct response to the high volume of need for food security resources for both House of Mercy’s individual clients and local agencies that do not have the capacity to receive and pack food that they need to distribute.
“Our volume is just so much higher now than pre-pandemic that we had to have a new space,” Nicole Lancour, director of communications, said.
With support from partners such as Virginia Peninsula Foodbank, Williamsburg Health Foundation and the Rotary Club of James City County, House of Mercy has been able to prepare its new warehouse space for collecting, packaging and distributing larger volumes of food.
A nonprofit organization that provides support to homeless and low-income individuals and families, House of Mercy expanded to have separate space for food packaging and warehousing tasks.
This also allows the organization to move its Harbor Day Shelter for the Homeless and community soup kitchen back into its 10 Harrison Ave. location.
The warehouse also helps House of Mercy and other agencies’ need for additional cold storage capacity, including dairy products and other nutritional items.
In addition to food, the warehouse stores diapers, car seats, strollers, clothing, feminine hygiene products and more that is sorted by volunteers and distributed to families.
Executive Director Shannon Woloszynowski said that by providing more fresh food and other items, House of Mercy is also able to help families keep roofs over their heads.
“Everything we’re carrying over here, it all falls under the heading of housing loss prevention,” Woloszynowski said. “We want to be able to support folks so they can stay in their houses. The money that they get they can put toward their rent and then we can kind of fill in the gaps.”
Woloszynowski said that the most significant change for the organization since the pandemic has been the distribution of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food.
“Pre-COVID[-19], we saw about 100 families a month who would come in and get one of these boxes,” she said. “We said they could come in about once a month for food. But with COVID, USDA said people could receive food every single week.”
The warehouse also currently stores categorized bins of donated Christmas gifts for House of Mercy’s upcoming Christmas Market, at which parents and caregivers can hand-pick Christmas gifts for their children and teenagers.
Thanksgiving food items are also coming in to the warehouse ahead of the Thanksgiving food drive in mid-November, at which turkeys and Thanksgiving meal ingredients will be distributed to families in need so that they can make a Thanksgiving meal from their homes.
“We are welcoming and inclusive to all families,” Lancour said. “It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what choices you’ve made, if you need food and shelter and any of these things, we are here for that. “