Food Hubs Offer Holistic Services
Renyatta Banks, Executive Director of the Wesley Community Service Center in Portsmouth, sees a diverse range of needs in the 150 individuals a week who come through the doors. Children visit for virtual tutoring services and summer camps focused on STEM. Adults may need access to clothing or career services. Some individuals are survivors of domestic violence. Others are battling addiction or mental health issues. “We see the same people a lot, so we can tell when they’re feeling off about something,” she says.
Sometimes the need is as simple as a person bringing in a piece of mail that they need read to them. “For someone to bring their documents in here to have another person help them understand — it’s really about trust,” she says. A staple in Portsmouth’s community since 1937, the Wesley has a reputation for being a reliable and consistent help to anyone who needs it. For over 30 years, as a Partner Agency of the Foodbank, the Wesley has also been a dependable and convenient source for food. “The Foodbank has always been the nucleus of it, so every program we have stems from our food program,” Renyatta explains.
For many neighbors in need of food assistance, having access to meals is just one piece of the puzzle. The other missing pieces could be lack of access to
affordable housing, legal counsel, mental health services, higher education resources, and more. Accessing multiple support services can be time consuming, especially for someone who may be working multiple jobs and caring for children.
With grant funding from Feeding America, the Foodbank has launched three food hubs that will offer food plus additional services to communities with the greatest need in the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth and town of Accomac.
How are these determined? In 2018, the Foodbank conducted extensive mapping to identify which communities had high rates of food insecurity as well as low access to grocery stores. These are the communities in which we are layering our partners and programs in order to holistically address food insecurity.
The Wesley now serves as Portsmouth’s food hub, offering food access via an online ordering system, as well as other services. “Those types of wraparound services we love,” Renyatta says. “It’s what keeps us going.” She looks forward to collaborating with partners such as EVMS and the American Heart Association to offer health resources, diabetes screenings, and heart health education. “The greatest need is education,” she says. “Just learning how to do things smarter, healthier, and differently.”
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
Amy Larch, Bank of America
Jeremy Moss, Bondadventure Realty Group
Dorcas Hodges Nelson*, Community Volunteer
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
William Nusbaum, Williams Mullen
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,
Forty years ago when a group of volunteers from STOP, Inc. recognized a need in their community, they put a plan into action. They transitioned from a food and nutrition program to a fully incorporated 501(c)3 known as the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia. The organization’s purpose was to serve as a regional clearinghouse in collecting and distributing unmarketable but edible food to appropriate non-profit organizations for their food programs.
During the last four decades, supporters like you have strengthened the Foodbank to grow and evolve in leading the effort to eliminate hunger in our community. Your support has led us to develop a robust network of Partner Agencies, volunteers, community partners, and program sites; expand with additional branches on the Eastern Shore and recently in Western Tidewater; establish a Food Rescue Program to enable more food donations with less waste; and launch programs to distribute healthy, nutritious foods to children, seniors, and low-income families. We have pivoted in more ways than we thought possible, now one year into the COVID-19 pandemic.
As more and more supporters have recognized additional needs in our community, the Foodbank has built capacity to feed more individuals, having distributed more than 350 million meals.
We have advocated for hunger-relief programs serving vulnerable adults and children and mobilized the public to join our efforts through education and awareness. Our transformational efforts have propelled us to understand root causes of food insecurity and prioritize ways to holistically address these issues through partnerships and collaboration. We have recognized racial disparities associated with food insecurity and committed to distribute food and other resources equitably. We have also begun to address food insecurity among college students by launching a campus-based pantry offering healthy foods and additional resources that allow students to focus more on their academic careers.
What will the next 40 years bring? How will the Foodbank’s purpose evolve to continue meeting the needs of individuals we serve? What challenges and opportunities will we face along the way? While we can only plan for possibilities, we know with certainty that with your continued support and collaboration, we will move forward in ending hunger today and nourishing hope for tomorrow.
With sincerest gratitude,
Ruth Jones Nichols, PhD, Kevin X. Jones,
President and CEO Chair, Board of Directors
COVID-19: A Year Later
Most of us can remember where we were during March 2020 when a global pandemic forced people and organizations to collectively pivot. At the Foodbank, that meant putting certain projects and tasks on hold to refocus efforts on distributing to vulnerable populations in our community. Our Foodbank team sprang into action by forming contingency plans, packing food boxes to fill in the gaps from volunteers, forging distribution partnerships when agencies needed to close, and conveying critical information to the public.
Meanwhile, community members like you were learning about the impacts of COVID-19. You stepped up by contributing food and funds to meet the community’s current and future needs. When it was safe to allow volunteers back into our building, you showed up masked, gloved, and ready to get to work. Your support has confirmed again and again that we’re all in this together and that we’ll get through this moment in time stronger and more resilient than ever.
16,705,575 pounds of food distributed*
Approximately 60% of Partner Agencies needed to close at the onset of the pandemic to keep senior volunteers safe, but many have re-opened and began serving their communities again. The Foodbank has rallied with its robust network of Partner Agencies and collaborated with non-feeding organizations to distribute food to more people in need.
Approximately 5,000 households served weekly via Mobile Pantry distributions*
Although the pandemic changed the way we distributed food to keep individuals safe, our commitment to serving vulnerable populations only strengthened. At the height of our COVID-19 response, we increased Mobile Pantry distributions from 20 to 65 a month. Your donations of food, funds and time have propelled us forward to keep serving.
216,750 BackPack meals and 49,863 Kids Cafe meals and snacks distributed*
Before the pandemic, 93,000 children in our service area relied on reduced-price breakfasts and lunches at school. Even though many schools have been physically closed since March, you’ve helped to ensure children and their families can access the nutritious food they need during this difficult time.
2,015,548 pounds of fresh produce provided*
During a time when more individuals than ever needed food assistance, we understood the importance of not just distributing food but ensuring that vulnerable communities could access healthy foods that are more expensive and not as readily available. Though limited by supply chain disruptions for the first several weeks of the pandemic, we soon prioritized these needed items for individuals we serve.
*From March 2020 to January 2021
Help Us Celebrate Our 40th Anniversary!
To help us commemorate our 40th anniversary, follow us on our social media channels and visit foodbankonline.org for updates on celebration events held throughout the year.
We have refreshed our organization’s Strategic Plan in a public report that is now available on our website. This report will outline the Foodbank’s direction moving forward and highlight our bold goal of 2025: closing the Meal Gap for our service area and making measurable progress toward ending hunger by collaborating with community partners to address root causes of food insecurity.
The Foodbank is partnering with Virginia MOCA in an exhibition titled Nourish on display through June 6, 2021. The exhibition and related educational programing will encourage members of our community to forge new connections with each other and gain a greater understanding of the challenges of filling our plates. Learn more about the Foodbank’s mission and efforts in the museum’s ARTLab.
Branching Out to Western Tidewater
In 2019, in order to address food insecurity for neighbors in Western Tidewater, the Obici Healthcare Foundation provided a three-year $300,000 grant for the Foodbank to scale and sustain programs in Western Tidewater. This initiative includes establishing a Western Tidewater Community Produce Hub, which will also serve as the organization’s Western Tidewater Branch.
A location for the Community Produce Hub has been purchased in Franklin and is undergoing renovation, with an expected opening in fall 2021. This two-level building will feature a Marketplace, Café and Commercial Kitchen, as well as conference rooms, offices, and a warehouse/distribution center for Partner Agencies to access food conveniently. Multipurpose rooms will serve as spaces where classes and workshops will provide resources for addressing root causes of food insecurity. For now, Franklin’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center serves as a temporary Community Produce Hub where individuals can schedule appointments online to select fresh produce, meats, and shelf-stable items.
Obici’s grant is also providing capacity-building initiatives in Western Tidewater. Suffolk Christian Fellowship Center, a Foodbank Partner Agency, was recently upgraded to feature commercial freezers and refrigeration, as well as more storage. The Center features a client choice model, which offers fresh options to more individuals through a client choice model that empowers individuals to select the healthy options their families enjoy.
Relief for Virginia Beach Residents
As our region continues to face the devastating impacts of COVID-19, Virginia Beach residents can access recovery support services through the Virginia Beach Pandemic Relief Partnership. This collaborative initiative, funded by the City of Virginia Beach, combines the strengths of organizations best positioned to serve our community as it relates to food access, utility payment assistance, rent and mortgage assistance, childcare, healthcare costs, job training, and small business support.
Through the initiative, the Foodbank has partnered with the United Way of South Hampton Roads, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council and LISC Hampton Roads to holistically support families facing food insecurity in Virginia Beach’s most vulnerable communities. We are working closely with Eastern Shore Chapel Pantry, Judeo Christian Outreach Center, The Mount Global Fellowship of Churches, and Water’s Edge Church to build capacity and rescale their food distribution programs.
In addition, the Foodbank has partnered with the Virginia Beach Department of Human Services to offer Pop-Up Markets where Virginia Beach residents can access meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, and other grocery staple items, as well as grocery store gift cards.