Food bank partner agencies making a big difference to fight food insecurity

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank (BRAFB) provides food for people in 25 counties across Virginia, but it wouldn’t be possible without their over 200 partner agencies.

“We have that network that’s resilient that’s here to provide that food and we’re going to do all we can to keep going,” BRAFB Director of Partner Engagement Tyler Herman said.

Food banks and partner pantries have been largely stretched as more people are unable to buy food for their families.

“The food bank partners with 203 partner agencies,” Herman explained. “Those are food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency homeless shelters really on the frontlines of meeting the needs of people in the community.”

Herman says their largest partner agency Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry has worked tirelessly to keep up with the demand high.

“They had to go from having people in the building where you could have a client-choice model to moving to an all drive thru distribution or arranging for deliveries to people’s homes,” Herman said. “So, real contraction in the ability to provide food.”

Since March 17, Loaves & Fishes has distributed 800,000 pounds of food.

“The food bank has continued to provide food for us and we do our pickups everyday from the local groceries that provides a lot of what we’re able to give away,” executive director of Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry, Jane Colony Mills said.

Before COVID-19, Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry had 160 volunteers working every week. With socially distancing measures in place they had to cut down to only 20 to 30 volunteers.

“At the beginning of COVID-19, we had a 45% increase in the need. We were seeing people who never would have thought they would go to a food pantry in their lives. It was kind of stunning and scary I think for them,” Colony Mills said.

A family of five or fewer who shows up to Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry will be given 100 pounds of fresh food for the week.

“The surprising new people coming for help has been a lot of young people, a lot of people fairly new out of college,” Colony Mills said.

Even though budgets are tight, Herman says BRAFB will make sure pantries like Loaves & Fishes continues to provide for those who need it the most.

“We will support our agencies in new ways to ensure that the food doesn’t stop flowing to people,” Herman said.

Anyone in need of food who comes to Loaves & Fishes during their operating hours will walk away with a good amount, the pantry says. There is no income requirement.

NBC29 and our sponsors are partnering with the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to help feed our neighbors. Our goal is to supply 100,000 meals with a campaign goal of $25,000. Your gift will go to benefit the Thomas Jefferson Branch. Click here to read more about the campaign.


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