TOANO, Va. — With far-reaching economic disruptions and millions unemployed, food insecurity is on the rise.
Consistent access to food is an ongoing problem. But now food pantries are experiencing an increase in families seeking food assistance due to closed businesses and schools, reduced work hours or lost jobs.
To help meet the growing demand, food banks and other charitable organizations are relying on community donations. KelRae Farm Food Hub in James City County recently launched an initiative called A Box of Hope, through which its members can purchase a box of produce and other food items donated by KelRae Farm and other food hub partners.
“A Box of Hope is an easy, one-click way for our members to be involved in our community food system,” said Pam Dannon, food hub manager. “Each donation will include fresh, local, seasonal produce from KelRae Farm as well as other items from our producers.”
Food hub members can buy A Box of Hope through KelRae Farm Food Hub’s online market. There’s no limit on the number purchased, and the total number of donations are tallied, bundled together by food hub staff, and then picked up by volunteers.
Each donation box currently includes a loaf of fresh bread from Virginia Bread Company, and the food hub plans to rotate the donations amongst its partners.
“It is a difficult time for small farms and producers, so we hesitated to ask for donations,” Dannon added. “The $10 cost of the food hub member’s donation is divided amongst participating partner producers to cover part of their food cost. They donate their time, packaging, labor and love to the donations.”
Averaging about 20 boxes per week, the food hub is partnering with Williamsburg House of Mercy, which adds the donated items to its daily food distribution. In the first 30 days of its COVID-19 response, the Williamsburg organization served more than 6,000 individuals. Some days they see 20 times more families than usual.
“Farms, food hubs and farmers markets give back to their local communities throughout the year,” said Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “The federal government will be providing food boxes in the very near future to help address the increased need, but many local farms and hubs are already answering the call. It’s especially heartwarming to see local efforts, like A Box of Hope and others, now when many farms and markets are struggling themselves during the COVID-19 shutdown with operational and sales restrictions.”
–Virginia Farm Bureau