The Future of Healthy Food Access
What if there was space designed to bring people from all walks of life together over food and conversation? What if we could destigmatize the idea of visiting a food pantry and instead ensure that individuals feel encouraged and empowered while having access to healthy, nutritious foods? What if people who needed food assistance could order groceries online and schedule a time to pick them up—just like the rest of society? What if we could bring community partners together in one convenient space to holistically address root causes of food insecurity?
At the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, we have long held the vision of “what could be” for our community and for individuals we serve. Now we have turned some of these “what ifs” into reality.
In 2019, TowneBank learned about our vision for a campus-based pantry and invested in the project with $250,000 to make the concept come to fruition.
In June 2020, through a partnership with Tidewater Community College, we opened The Community Feed, a vibrant, inviting and engaging mixed-use space located at MacArthur Center in Norfolk. The space is designed for TCC students to access healthy food and eventually build collaboration among one another and connectivity to resources aimed at holistically addressing root causes of food insecurity: lack of access to higher education, employment, housing, healthcare and financial literacy.
In this issue of The Teller, we will provide insight on food insecurity among college students and how The Community Feed at TCC will work to address the immediate and long-term challenges that students face. Finally, we will share what this overall concept means for our community and the future of our work as we move toward our vision of a hunger-free community.
2020-2021 Board of Directors
Kevin X. Jones, Dollar Tree, Inc.
Thomas G. Werner, Norfolk Southern (Retired)
David Chase, Wall, Einhorn & Chernitzer, P.C.
Don Carey, III, Community Volunteer
Darius Davenport, Crenshaw, Ware & Martin, PLC
Larry W. Ebinger, Community Volunteer
Andre Elliott, YMCA of South Hampton Roads
Paul Finch, Community Volunteer
William Goings, Food Lion, Inc.
Carol Jarvis*, Community Volunteer
Jeremy Moss, Bondadventure Realty Group
Dorcas Hodges Nelson*, Community Volunteer
Amy Larch, Bank of America
Christie Nicholson, The Nicholson Companies
Kay O’Reilly, Eastern Shore Chapel
Leila Rice, Hampton Roads Sanitation District
Sara Rothenberg, EVMS
Dr. James Shaeffer, Eastern Shore Community College
Melissa Smith, A & N Electric Cooperative
Tonya Walley, Cox Communications
David Brown, CMAS, LLC
Bruce Holbrook, Dixon Hughes Goodman, LLP
Peter M. Huber, Willcox & Savage
Andy Kline, Payday Payroll
Susan Mayo, Community Volunteer
Marianne P. Scott, Community Volunteer
Marc Weiss, Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC
Ruth Jones Nichols, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer (ex-officio)
*Active Honorary Members
Dear Foodbank Friend,
In some ways, it seems like a lifetime ago when the COVID-19 outbreak first reached our service area and forced us to press pause on a number of projects, including The Community Feed at TCC. Although our overall vision for this project involved concepts that needed to be postponed, we are excited to welcome students into this space and provide access to the healthy foods they need to thrive and succeed. When we consider the long-term impact that The Community Feed at TCC can have on students, and eventually our community overall, we feel hopeful about the transformational changes that can ensue from this conceptual model designed to be replicated at additional campuses and community spaces.
In addition to The Community Feed at TCC, we have reinstated the Healthy Food Pantry Program (HFPP) with two launches in Western Tidewater and one on the Eastern Shore. The HFPP provides healthy food access to individuals struggling with food insecurity and chronic health-related conditions – such as diabetes or hypertension – and is especially vital in rural areas, where food deserts are widespread and transportation is often limited.
Programs that holistically address food insecurity are also crucial in Black and African-American communities, where individuals are disproportionately impacted by food insecurity and health disparities. We see this happening in our own backyard as the closing of the St. Paul’s neighborhood’s one and only grocery store leaves thousands of families with no access to healthy foods in their own community. Many of our neighbors will need to turn to the Foodbank for a solution. With this in mind, we have reframed our programming to meet the needs of our community by shifting resources from programs that occur during a gathering—such as the Healthy School Market—to an adaptation called Nourishing Our Neighbors, ensuring that entire families have access to healthy, nutritious meals through a safe, no-contact model.
Each new initiative is only a step. The road to addressing root causes of food insecurity and racial disparities is long and complicated. However, it is a journey that we must embark on as we move toward our vision for a hunger-free community. Together, with you, we are ready to move forward.
With sincerest gratitude,
Ruth Jones Nichols, PhD, Kevin X. Jones,
President and CEO Chair, Board of Directors
Food Insecurity Among College Students
College students across the country face many financial-related barriers, including rising tuition rates, crippling student loan debt and the stress of balancing education with part-time jobs. For students already challenged by lack of income, these issues can lead to larger struggles, including food insecurity. “A lot of people don’t want to admit they need help, but they are hungry at school,” says Renee Robinson, a student currently enrolled at TCC.
Emanuel Chestnut, Dean of Student Support Services/Campus Dean at TCC’s Norfolk Campus, agrees. “The stigma of hunger and food insecurity is real. As tuition rises and the other costs of college go up, campus administrators are forced to face a troubling reality: Many college students don’t get enough to eat,” he says. “When students are hungry, they can’t and won’t learn.”
Before the pandemic, 37 percent of households were choosing between food and educational expenses. Like most issues that existed beforehand, COVID-19 has only heightened the situation.
“COVID-19 has uncovered and put on display the many disparities that exist as they relate to food, financial and housing insecurity. Many of our students work in service industries, which seemingly has been hardest hit as it relates to the employment arena,” Emanuel explains. “Families, including our students, have suffered financial hardships, and as a result, their resources have been depleted.”
The pandemic has also separated students from some resources that they had previously benefited from, including technology access and the Foodbank’s Pop-Up Pantries on TCC campuses that were launched as a way to immediately begin addressing food insecurity among college students.
“The food always seemed to come right on time,” Renee describes. “I was a student that needed the help, just like so many others.” She recalls creating dishes, such as eggplant parmesan and salads, using fresh ingredients received at the Pop-Up Pantries during the fall and winter months. “I was able to feed my family of five and had extras like potatoes, black beans and broccoli.”
Now that The Community Feed at TCC has opened, Renee looks forward to scheduling appointments to pick up meal kits, with three options available each week to create healthy dishes from the comfort of her kitchen. “The meal kits enable us to prepare nutritious meals with different ingredients,” she says. “This is going to help so many people, especially during these times. Every little bit helps nowadays.”
“The Community Feed will be beneficial both immediately and long term,” Emanuel says. “It will assist students as they continue to pursue their academic goals.” He views the services of The Community Feed at TCC as a way to holistically teach students vital concepts such as preparing healthy foods for their families, learning about food nutrition and becoming economically self-sufficient as they continue their education or advance their careers. “The Community Feed not only benefits the student, but the entire family,” he says. “This ultimately impacts generations.”
Sharing the Vision
In September 2019, during Hunger Action Month, the Foodbank held an event, Addressing the Root Causes of Hunger and Food Insecurity: A Community Leader and Stakeholder Conversation to share local and national perspectives on leading and emerging hunger-relief efforts. At the event’s closing, TowneBank presented the Foodbank with a check for $250,000 to partner with TCC in creating a campus-based pantry model that would be replicated at up to four TCC campuses over a span of five years. Many people likely wondered what this concept would look like and what resources would be available to students. While we didn’t have all the answers, we had a vision.
We knew that, together with TCC, we wanted to create a space that would address students’ immediate and long-term barriers to academic success. We started to imagine connections being built and conversations being started, as individuals come together over an appreciation of healthy foods and a thirst for knowledge. The atmosphere would need to feel welcoming, inviting and inclusive for all students, with adequate wheelchair access and areas dedicated to children to accommodate students who are also parents. In all of these considerations, we imagined erasing any stigma associated with receiving food assistance and building a fresh foundation to work together with students to nourish their minds and bodies and imagine the many possibilities of their futures. Below, learn about each space and the services that will be fully available as soon as it is safe to do so.
Meet the Designer
“Powerful. Positive Influence. Multicultural. Sowing Seeds. Cultivating. Nurturing Relationships. Community. Interactive-Mentorship. Healing. A safe place to share. Life Changing.” These are the words that Leisa Arrington, Principal Designer and Owner of Proverbial Interior Design Solutions in Norfolk, uses to describe what comes to her mind when she is inside The Community Feed at TCC.
Leisa was charged with executing the interior design for The Community Feed at TCC by incorporating ideas from several vision boards and bringing them to life. The vision boards displayed design elements including modern-rustic farmhouse and industrial design with an urban flair. “While the open floor plan and warm, wooden cabinetry brings in a soft modern element, the consistent color palette adds personality by layering art pieces from each design style,” she says. “These styles are balanced by rich color choices and an eclectic collection of furniture, incorporated with functionality created to make the space a warm and inviting experience you’ll want to share with others.”
Leisa was chosen to lead the interior design of The Community Feed at TCC because of her expertise, attention to detail and well-trained eye for quality craftsmanship—and she just so happens to be a TCC alumna.
In 2007, Leisa took her first interior design class at TCC under the instruction of Lana Sapozhnikov, who says that Leisa stood out among her peers. “It gives me such joy to be an interior designer, and when I can pass that on to a student and they run with it, it’s like a full circle experience,” she says. “Leisa was being very thorough with this project, ensuring it would be functional, with a good presentation and welcoming.”
During an initial tour of the space, while listening to the vision from the Foodbank’s President and CEO, Dr. Ruth Jones Nichols, Leisa says that she smiled deeply and knew within that she was destined to be a vital part of the project. “What came to mind was a place of provision, guidance, healing and safety—a place that says you are valued, reaching far beyond academics and touching the hearts of many to bring about lasting change.”
A Collaborative Effort: Q&A with The Community Feed at TCC Partners
RUTH JONES NICHOLS, PRESIDENT AND CEO,
Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore
What was the original vision behind The Community Feed at TCC?
I’ve worked in the nonprofit, social services sector for almost 25 years and know firsthand how important it is for individuals to feel a sense of dignity and empowerment when seeking support or services. This belief was embedded within the original vision for The Community Feed at TCC and has become the foundation upon which we built our initial program model – from the interior design and online ordering experience to the strategic partner services that will be offered to students and community members. The original vision for this non-traditional food pantry was, and remains, to provide access to healthy food while promoting self-dignity, holistically addressing root causes of food insecurity, and building collaboration through community and conversation. Ultimately, The Community Feed at TCC will become a place for anyone to experience inspiration, empowerment and hope for the future.
What is the value of identifying partners to work with college students to address five root causes of food insecurity?
There is value in creating partnerships that align goals and pool resources toward a common mission. Simply put, we can do more and achieve more when we work together. When it comes to addressing root cause issues for college students, we know there is not a simple, one size fits all solution. However, when we leverage healthy food with other services provided by strategic partners in higher education, housing, workforce development, healthcare and financial literacy using a one-stop approach, we believe that our outcomes can be more transformational and help students achieve food security.
MARCIA CONSTON, PRESIDENT, Tidewater Community College
When did you first recognize food insecurity as a major issue among college students?
I recognized this issue during the 1990s while working at a small, private liberal arts college. The majority of students were first-generation college students and primarily low income (Pell-eligible). Their reliance on the college’s cafeteria was their only means for food (although many could not afford the maximum meal plan). When I transitioned to a community college, I saw just how critical food insecurity was in that nonresidential environment. Community colleges attract a broad range — from economically sufficient to the unemployed to even homeless students. We serve a wider range of nontraditional students who are more likely vulnerable to both financial and food insecurities.
What vision do you have when considering the overall impact The Community Feed at TCC can have on students?
My vision and hope are that The Community Feed will have a positive impact on student enrollment and retention. Helping to eradicate food insecurity eliminates one of the many barriers some community college students face. They are more likely to enroll and stay enrolled in college until they attain a credential and enter the workplace or transfer to a four-year institution. Also, this program will help create a healthier individual, both physically and emotionally, which also positively impacts academic performance.
JOHN BAIOCCO, PRESIDENT, TowneBank Norfolk
When TowneBank representatives learned about the concept behind a campus based-pantry at TCC, what inspired you to invest in this project with a $250,000 gift?
We are proud of our culture of caring at TowneBank, and we are pleased to provide our financial support to The Community Feed at TCC. A campus-based food pantry designed to eliminate food insecurity is truly an investment in our future that will undoubtedly benefit our entire community.
As you’ve now seen the project come to life, how does it feel seeing your investment turn a vision into a reality?
At the time we made our financial commitment, The Community Feed at TCC was a mere vision. We are thrilled to see the vision come to life, and we are grateful to have played a part in doing so.
In this issue of The Teller, we have noted the ways in which COVID-19 has forced us to press pause on some of the programs and initiatives we had put in place for last fiscal year. Now, as we continue to understand the impact that the pandemic has had on our service area, we know how critical it is to continue to move forward — together with you — as we continue leading the effort to eliminate hunger in our community.
Strategic Planning Refresh
In 2017, we created a 3-year strategic plan aimed at addressing root causes of food insecurity and moving closer to achieving the mission of eliminating hunger for those we serve—not only for the day, or for the week, but for a lifetime. Our next phase of strategic planning, which begins in fall 2020, will focus on a bold, five-year goal of closing the Meal Gap in our service area and making measurable progress toward “ending the line” by addressing root causes of hunger and food insecurity.
Root Causes Study Phase II
In September 2019, the Foodbank released a report, “Hunger and Food Insecurity: The Root Causes and Consequences,” in which we worked with Old Dominion University to offer a glimpse of the complex factors guiding the evolution of our work. This fall, we will continue our research with ODU to interview more individuals and work to gain further insight and understanding about root causes of food insecurity. This research will continue to guide our path as we introduce more programs and initiatives to holistically meet the needs of the individuals we serve.
Women Ending Hunger Leadership Giving Circle
To continue addressing the needs of neighbors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, we need individuals to share voice, support and dedication to help us grow our capabilities to ensure there is healthy food on the plate of everyone who needs it. We are asking women in our community to consider joining or renewing a membership to Women Ending Hunger, a leadership giving circle comprised of women leaders who support the Foodbank’s work by learning and sharing our vision, mission, and strategic initiatives to eliminate hunger in our community. Learn more at foodbankonline.org/WEH
Hunger Action Month
Held during the month of September, Hunger Action Month (HAM) is a time when Feeding America’s nationwide network of food banks join together to mobilize the public to take action on the issue of hunger. This year’s HAM will include engaging and informative ways to take action virtually to raise awareness about food insecurity in our community and make a difference for individuals we serve. This year’s Hunger Action Month sponsor is Kroger.
10th Annual Elected Officials Engagement Day
September 11, 2020
People of color face a multitude of barriers to nutrition and food security that must be addressed to achieve racial equity. Many of these barriers are in large part a product of racially biased public policies (both past and present), structures, institutions, practices and cultural beliefs and attitudes that systematically discriminate against people of color. The Foodbank is hosting a Virtual Town Hall with members of the Virginia General Assembly to explore food insecurity through a racial equity lens. The event will be followed by a virtual Racial Wealth Gap Learning Simulation, an interactive tool that helps people understand the connections among racial equity, hunger, poverty and wealth.
FM99 and 106.9 The Fox 24th Annual Mayflower Marathon
November 20–22, 2020
This is a 57-hour consecutive food and fund drive that takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving each year. The goal of this event is to put food on the tables of those struggling with hunger in our community. This success of this year’s Mayflower Marathon is critical, as there are increased numbers of families experiencing food insecurity this year due to the impact of COVID-19. The event will continue to be operated in a drive-thru, drop-off model in Virginia Beach and Suffolk with limited contact to protect the safety and well-being of individuals dropping off and collecting food donations. Online donations will also be accepted.