Feeding the Hungry and Learning about Hunger in Hampton Roads

The Virginia Peninsula Foodbank is a remarkable place. Located in Hampton, Virginia it boasts a huge warehouse filled with shelves reaching two or three stories high and provides food to over 200 charitable organizations in the greater Peninsula area. Since it was founded nearly 30 years ago, it has provided over 117 million meals.

On September 18, I had the good fortune to visit the Foodbank with Mrs. Dorothy McAuliffe, First Lady of Virginia, and President Adam Nielson, a leader of the thirteen congregations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Foodbank’s region. They were there to meet a truck delivering 30,000 pounds of food donated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as part of Virginia’s Day to Serve initiative.

Thirty thousand pounds of food sounds like a lot of food, but as the folks at the Foodbank explained it’s actually quite small compared to the needs of hungry men, women, and children in the Peninsula area. Our region has the highest level of food insecurity in the state, with a food insecurity level of 13.9 percent. That’s nearly 150,000 men, women, and children who receive assistance from the Foodbank. Against that need, 30,000 pounds is enough food to keep the Foodbank going for perhaps a week.

According to Andrew Council, one of the incredible employees at the Foodbank, hunger is caused by poverty and the “food deserts” that exist over much of our area.  Food deserts consist of large areas with no grocery stores.  Ironically, many of our poorest neighbors must spend the most for food, either by buying unhealthy food from convenience stores or else hiring taxis to take them long distances to go grocery shopping.

After hearing about the hunger in our area, the towering shelves in the Foodbank looked smaller, and I noticed that many of them had empty spaces. People tend to remember the hungry during the holiday season, and from Thanksgiving to New Years donations roll into the Fooodbank. Those in need in our area, however, must eat year round, and the Foodbank is always in need of donations of food, money, and volunteer hours. As a Latter-day Saint, my morning at the Foodbank reminded me powerfully of Jesus Christ’s teaching that when we see “those that are a hungered” we are to “give them meat.” (Matt. 25:35) Check the Foodbank out at www.hrfoodbank.org and help those in need.

Nathan B. Oman is a volunteer public affairs coordinator for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

 

Karen Joyner, CEO of the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank, Dorothy McAuliffe, First Lady of Virginia, Adam Nielson, Second Counselor in the Newport News Stake Presidency

Photo by Brian Arndt