You Can’t Learn if You’re Hungry
The Eastern Shore of Virginia fits just about any definition of a food desert. A narrow swath of mostly farmland running
more than 70 miles long, it has only five grocery stores. Making matters worse, the poverty level is well above the state average. Many feel its effects, and that includes college students. “Because we are just so darn rural, we have 43,000 people on this 73-mile stretch here, it’s a real challenge,” says Dr. James Shaeffer, President of Eastern Shore Community College (ESCC). “Demographically, 50 percent of our population is either in poverty or ‘ALICE,’ as defined by the United Way. And there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that our students fall into this same group.”
ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, and it is a new way of defining and understanding the struggles of households that earn above the Federal Poverty Level but not enough to afford a bare-bones household budget. They are workers who often struggle to keep their own households from financial ruin. They are people who cannot always pay the bills, have little or nothing in savings, and are forced to make tough choices such as deciding between quality childcare or paying the rent.
“Higher education has evolved rapidly over the years, and we’re seeing college enrollment later in life with the overall
age of enrollment now right around 26 years old,” says Foodbank Board Chair Tonya Walley. “Many students now
work part-time or full-time to cover the rising cost of tuition, and many have dependents.”
Clearly, college students in this group face hard choices. When Dr. Shaeffer took the helm at ESCC, he knew this was an issue that had to be addressed. “Students would come in, grab a candy bar and some sugary drink to start the day,” he says. On the Eastern Shore, there is an ironic twist. It’s an agricultural area, yet many residents have little to no access to health food like fresh produce.
Now, with the support of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, ESCC has opened a food pantry for its students. Although there is no food service on campus, students can now come in each morning and grab a bag filled with healthy snacks. The pantry itself, staffed by volunteers, is open three times a week. “Now, our students can get fresh produce, cheese, milk, and eggs,” says Food Pantry Coordinator Matt Anthony. “It’s really made a big difference.”
Each week, Dr. Shaeffer says he and his team are on the search for funding sources to offer additional wraparound services to help students with such things as housing assistance, childcare, and transportation. While the needs are great, students at ESCC have one less thing to worry about — they don’t have to study on an empty stomach.
2022 Board of Directors
Tonya Walley, Cox Communications
Jeremy Moss, Bondadventure Realty Group
Dr. James Shaeffer, Eastern Shore Community College
Marth Ambler, Community Volunteer
Don Carey, III, Community Volunteer
Darius Davenport, Crenshaw, Ware & Martin, PLC
Larry W. Ebinger, Community Volunteer
Andre Elliott, YMCA of South Hampton Roads
William Goings, Food Lion, Inc.
Carol Jarvis*, Community Volunteer
Amy Larch, Bank of America
Kevin X. Jones, Dollar Tree (Immediate Past Chair)
Kenneth Magee, Virginia Natural Gas
Dorcas Hodges Nelson*, Community Volunteer
Kay O’Reilly, Eastern Shore Chapel
Leila Rice, Hampton Roads Sanitation District
Sara Rothenberg, EVMS
Melissa Smith, A & N Electric Cooperative
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
Jaynee K. Day
Interim President &CEO (ex-officio)
*Active Honorary Members
Dear Foodbank Friend,
As we embark on another year operating through COVID recovery, we are taking stock of all the things that have allowed us to continue our mission, despite the many challenges. First and foremost, we are
exceedingly grateful for the many partners that have enabled us to serve our neighbors who are experiencing food insecurity. There are the 168 Partner Agencies that distributed nearly 14 million pounds of food during the most recent fiscal year, and the more than 3,300 volunteers who stepped up and worked even harder to make up for a volunteer force operating at half of its pre-COVID capacity.
Another partnership that has been especially impactful is the o ne we have forged with the City of Virginia Beach’s Department of Human Services. Through an appropriation made possible from funds received through the American Rescue Plan Act, we were able
to stage a series of five massive drive-thru food distributions in Virginia Beach. Moreover, the City Council just earmarked additional funds – $5 million in all — for additional such events. We continue to
explore similar approaches that will enable us to do more to end hunger in our community.
And there are the partners, such as Wesley Community Center, Basilica of St. Mary’s, and Promethean Group, who enabled us to open food hubs last year, offering holistic, wraparound services to address hunger and its
root causes. We’ve managed to do more than we’ve ever done with fewer volunteer resources, and escalating food costs.
So, where does that leave us? It makes us exceptionally grateful to all of our supporters and partners who helped us to keep moving the ball forward. It also signals us that our work is not finished. There are still
neighbors in our community struggling with food insecurity, working at jobs that do not offer a living wage, worrying about where their next meal will come from. Many are doing so while pursuing higher education, and by doing so, hoping to eliminate food insecurity for themselves and their families. Then, there are those who cannot properly feed their children
when they’re home from school on the weekends.
The community has been exceedingly generous during the past two years but there are so many out there who continue to struggle with food insecurity. Our efforts to address food insecurity, hunger, and its root causes are more vital than ever. For whatever part you’ve played in helping us to continue on our journey to end food insecurity, we are grateful, and being grateful is a good place to start.
With sincerest gratitude,
Jaynee K. Day Tonya Walley,
Interim President and CEO Chair, Board of Directors
Foodbank Backpack Program: Filling the Gap One Weekend at a Time
Students who participate in their schools’ free or reduced breakfast and lunch programs are receiving much-needed nutrition when they might otherwise go hungry, but what happens on the weekends? Without the Foodbank’s Backpack Program, it could be a very long two and half days. Through this program, they are sent home with backpacks filled with six nutritious meals.
We could not do this without the help of our Adopt-a-Site partners. They allow us to serve more than 60 area schools and nearly 3,600 students. One of those partners is High Street United Methodist Church in Franklin. The Western Tidewater area has some of the highest food insecurity rates in the Foodbank’s service area. In the City of Franklin and Southampton County alone, approximately 35 percent of the population is food insecure.
Nine years ago, the church stepped forward to sponsor students at S.P. Morton Elementary School. “As a church we were looking to find a way to become more involved in some local activities that would benefit children and families,” says High Street UMC’s Mission Team Leader Ruthie Ponder. “We decided to start our fundraising with a ‘sponsor a child’ approach. You could sponsor a child for the full school year for $96 or make a donation of any amount. This was very successful and over the nine years we have been participating in this program, we have never had a problem reaching our goal.
“All in all, during our packing sessions each month, we pack 160 bags of food. It takes us about an hour to do this. Then, twice a month, we have two people that deliver the bags of food to the school. We also have two volunteers who receive the delivery of food, check it in, and put it away each month. There is great intergenerational fellowship during these packing sessions, and we always leave with a great feeling of love and hope for these children and their families. We feel honored to have been able to hopefully make a difference in the lives of these food insecure children who live right here in our little town of Franklin.”
In the most recent fiscal year, the Foodbank and our partners have been able to distribute more than 58,000 backpacks for a total of 348,174 meals throughout our service area. It’s just one piece of the puzzle toward our Bold Goal to close the meal gap by 2025.
Western Tidewater Produce Hub Progress Update
Work is progressing well on the Foodbank’s new Western Tidewater Branch and Produce Hub. Located at 618 South Street in Franklin, the 17,000 square foot building will include a warehouse that will give Partner Agencies more convenient access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats, as well as a café, conference rooms, and a commercial kitchen. The broader purpose: to become a community gathering spot where partners and community organizations can work to not only feed people but break down barriers and create avenues to solutions in areas such as workforce development, higher education, and housing.
With the warehouse now complete, work continues on the interior buildout with a targeted completion date of late spring/early summer. However, that is not holding us back in getting food to those who need it. Each week, we are holding mobile food pantries, with staff and volunteers going out to neighborhoods ahead of time, planting yard signs, and connecting with managers at apartment communities to promote each food distribution event.
In addition, we held two distributions on the site of 618 in partnership with First Baptist Church over the holidays.
Virginia Beach and Foodbank Partner
to Feed Thousands
The Foodbank closed out the year with the fifth in a series of drive-thru pantries in Virginia Beach. Combined, 7,023 households were served, 433,889 pounds of food distributed, and 361,575 meals provided. And now, the Virginia Beach City Council has appropriated an additional $5 million dollars for additional distributions going forward.
This effort was the result of a partnership between the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore and the Virginia Beach Department of Human Services (DHS). Each event gave residents the opportunity to receive a mix of fresh and shelf-stable food such as fruit, vegetables, bread, dairy products, frozen meats, canned goods, and more.
In 2020, the Virginia Beach City Council voted to provide an $8 million grant to launch the Virginia Beach Pandemic Relief Partnership, managed by the United Way of South Hampton Roads, to engage other local nonprofits, such as the Foodbank which received $2 million, to provide relief to Virginia Beach residents. Throughout each of these distributions, the feeling of gratitude was palpable. We heard stories of people who had been laid off with no food in their kitchens. Many broke into tears, so thankful they would be able to feed their children. Along with food, they received gift cards to purchase necessities such as diapers, baby formula, and cleaning supplies.
In addition to this partnership, the Foodbank has 68 feeding partners and program sites in Virginia Beach providing direct relief to people in need of food assistance. Three of those partners recently completed pantry renovations and/or received refrigerated vehicles in January/February 2021 — the Eastern Shore Chapel Church, Judeo Christian Outreach Center (JCOC), Virginia Beach and Foodbank Partner to Feed Thousands and The Mount Virginia Beach. In addition, seven more partners started and/or completed capacity-building efforts to enhance their emergency food distribution efforts. They include the Gathering at Scott Memorial United Methodist Church, Open Door Chapel, Church of the Ascension, Storehouse Pantry, Vineyard Community Church, Virginia Beach Community Development Corporation, and Water’s Edge Church.
“It’s hard to believe that today, people all over the world are suffering from a hunger pandemic,” says Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer. “It’s even harder to believe that right here in Virginia Beach, there are about 40,000 individuals, including over 11,000 children, who are food-insecure. I’m very grateful to all the staff and volunteers at the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore for meeting the needs of vulnerable people throughout our community.”