NORFOLK — A $2.6 million public-private program has been created to provide emergency food care packages for families facing hunger as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
The 20-pound boxes will be filled with five days’ worth of nonperishable meals. Distributors say they can be easily assembled and mass-produced at the usual Federation of Virginia Food Banks. Other locations are being considered to reach vulnerable people and those in quarantine.
The initiative, called the We Care COVID-19 Virginia Emergency Food Support program, is being paid for with a $1.4 million state grant from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, aka the CARES Act. It also received $500,000 grants from Sentara Healthcare and Truist. Other partners, including Humana, Northern Neck Virginia Insurance, CVS Health/Aetna, the Wawa Foundation and Tito’s Vodka, are pitching in contributions.
As unemployment rises amid quarantines and business closures, the demand for food is expected to grow. Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks, now estimates that 450,000 more Virginians will become “food insecure” this year, passing 1.2 million. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to food to support a healthy life.
Gov. Ralph Northam went to the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore in Norfolk for a packing event Friday. About 300 boxes were assembled, but coordinators believe the program will eventually distribute 100,000 of them.