Friday, January 27, 2023

They lost their third largest donor, but this food bank continues to fight childhood hunger

They use trucks to deliver food to their partner locations.(HNNDaily Photo/Melanie Occhiuzzo)
The food bank use trucks to deliver food to its partner locations. (Melanie Occhiuzzo/HNNDaily)

HAMPTON — The Virginia Peninsula Foodbank is about to kick off its summer feeding program: The Summer Food Service Program, on June 18.

This federally funded program is the state’s effort to provide two meals a day to any child under the age of 18 throughout the summer while school is closed.

Parents do not need to sign them up and there is no eligibility requirement.

Karen Joyner, the food bank’s chief executive officer, said there are 25 different meals sites this summer. The bank will be serving more than 900 meals a day for lunch and breakfast at certain locations.

Find the nearest location by texting FOOD or COMIDA to 877-877.

The program

This is the seventh year the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank will be participating in the program.

The children who attend the program locations are given a hot meal and several of the participating sites have programs to keep the children occupied while there.

Only 15 percent of children across the state who are on free or reduced price lunch take advantage of the program, Joyner said.

She said she wants to make sure the word about the availability of the program gets out.

The Virginia Peninsula Foodbank partners with organizations all over the Peninsula, relying on them to serve the meals and run the programs.

It is the food bank’s job to cook the meals and distribute them to the program centers, with the exception of their mobile food truck.

A look inside the Culinary Training Program's kitchen (HNNDaily Photo/Melanie Occhiuzzo)
A look inside the Culinary Training Program’s kitchen. (Melanie Occhiuzzo/HNNDaily)

The food bank’s Culinary Training Program participants cook each meal — the program is year-round but over the summer participants are solely responsible for cooking the meals.

Executive chef Tyrone Carter is in charge of creating the menus, adhering to the government’s strict guidelines for a healthy and balanced meal.

He said his goal is to make kid-friendly meals.

Jacquelyn Linder, nutrition programs director, said “many of the folks who participate in the program are excited about it.”

The program location is chosen based on whether or not the school district has 50 percent or more kids on free or reduced lunch.

For instance, if an area doesn’t meet that criteria but still has a need for the program, the food bank can look at the city’s census or income eligibility forms to determine need.

Providing the food

The food bank buys all the food for the Summer Food Service Program, guaranteeing it meets all of the health requirements set by the federal government, Joyner said

The food bank can get reimbursed for the food they buy as long as it meets the nutrition guidelines.

The rest of the food comes from donations. So far, Food Lion is one of the largest donors, providing more than 1 million pounds of food, according to a food bank’s 2016-2017 report.

The warehouse where all donations are sorted and distributed to the food bank's partners. (HNNDaily Photo/Melanie Occhiuzzo)
The warehouse where all donations are sorted and distributed to the food bank’s partners. (Melanie Occhiuzzo/HNNDaily)

A major challenge the food bank will be facing is the loss of their third largest donor, Farm Fresh. Of the 12 million pounds of food donated this year, 1 million of that came from Farm Fresh, Joyner said.

Farm Fresh has been in the process of closing all of their locations over the past year, ending the Farm Fresh grocery franchise.

To find information about the Summer Food Service Program or the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank, visit their websites.

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