September is Hunger Action Month — a month where people all over America stand together with Feeding America and the nationwide network of food banks to fight hunger. It’s a month to spread the word and take action on the hunger crisis and dedicate ourselves to a solution. We challenge you to learn more about the issue of food insecurity in our community and take action by spreading awareness to help eliminate hunger.
In 2019, we released a public report, Hunger and Food Insecurity: The Root Causes and Consequences, in which we partnered with researchers at Old Dominion University to determine the underlying factors of food insecurity and offer a glimpse of the complex factors guiding the evolution of our work. The five root causes of food insecurity are represented in the icons below. Each week, we will focus on a different root cause, offering ways to explore the impacts of each one, share information, and take action to make a difference.
Several aspects of healthcare and food insecurity are interconnected. Many families find themselves caught in a cycle of being unable to afford healthy food; needing expensive medical care to treat diet-related health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and obesity; and then having to choose between paying for healthy food and medicine. The Foodbank is committed to ensuring that our neighbors not only have access to food — but healthy, nutritious food — to meet their needs.
Did you know?
- 79% of Feeding America client households report purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food to feed their families
- 66% of households had to choose between food and medicine / medical care in the past year with 31% of households facing this tradeoff every month
- 58% of households have a member with high blood pressure, and 33% of households have a member with diabetes – the rates are even higher among households with seniors (77% of households have a member with high blood pressure, and 47% of households have a member with diabetes)
- Food insecure individuals have higher overall healthcare costs compared to food secure individuals, likely because food insecurity is associated with chronic disease such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc.
Racial Disparities and Healthcare
Racial inequalities have long impacted health outcomes for people of color as these populations have been disproportionately affected by poverty and hunger. The Foodbank has learned that as the demand for our services continues to rise, it is absolutely critical we prioritize those populations disproportionately impacted by poverty and food insecurity.
- Last summer, the Foodbank launched 757 Mobile Markets, a fleet of trucks that deliver healthy, nutritious food to neighborhoods with the greatest needs with a “farmers’ market” style shopping experience. The 757 Mobile Markets, which bring a new concept to the region, help to eliminate transportation barriers for those experiencing hunger or food insecurity by bringing fresh food directly into neighborhoods identified as food deserts.
- The Young Terrace Food Hub in Norfolk offers a weekly food distribution. This location is a closed community center in the heart of a public housing community that is adjacent to two other housing communities particularly hard hit by the closing of the only grocery store for miles as well as the pandemic. We transformed an available space in the Community Center into a client choice farmers market style distribution. During the winter months, the Food Hub set up clothes closet for clients. We are also offering healthy food demonstrations and building healthcare partnerships to offer wellness checks.
- Sentara Healthcare is opening a primary health-care facility inside a low- to moderate-income housing complex within the Berkley neighborhood of Norfolk. The Foodbank will leverage our expertise sourcing fresh produce, lean protein, products, and shelf-stable food for the Banks at Berkley Food Hub that will operate on site, serving not only Sentara-referred patients but also neighbors living within a few miles of the complex. Food will be provided through our free charitable food hub distribution model. In addition to choice based food selections, this site will provide holistic wrap around services such as nutrition education, healthy food preparation options, and SNAP application support.
- The Foodbank’s Advocacy and programs teams successfully collaborated to host an advocacy training and community listening session with 10 enthusiastic neighbors and hosted it as the backbone organization for our regional Hunger Action Coalition. The event was supported by the State Department of Social Services and Virginia Poverty Law Center. The goal of the listening session was to:
- Hear from neighbors about what they need to be healthy and thrive in their community
- Properly represent the voices of those with lived experience of nutrition insecurity
- Determine what they need and what policymakers should better prioritize
- Provide neighbors with advocacy tools
- Establish dialogue which will facilitate feedback on local and state policy priorities into the future
Actions to Take This Week:
- Join a watch party or discussion for the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health on Wednesday, September 28. This will be the first Conference of this kind in more than 50 years and will bring government leaders, academics, activists, and Americans from all walks of life together to achieve the goal of ending hunger and reducing diet-related diseases in the U.S. by 2030 – all while reducing disparities among the communities who are impacted the most by these issues. Learn more here.
- Help integrate nutrition and health by telling lawmakers that hospitals and healthcare providers should screen patients for food insecurity and connect them to available nutrition assistance services such as like SNAP benefits. Find your representative here.
- Watch “The Color of Care”, a documentary produced by Oprah Winfrey and the Smithsonian Chanel examining racial health disparities and practices in the United States.
- Create a healthy and budget-friendly dish, take a photo, and share it along with the recipe by tagging us or commenting on our social media posts.
- Share this story about Jodi, an Eastern Shore resident who has dietary restrictions stemming from health issues and is challenged with not having enough money to buy food. Learn how the Foodbank helps to meet their needs.
Feeding America’s Hunger Study shows that 71% of college students are nontraditional, meaning they may possess the following characteristics: experience financial independence, are enrolled part-time, work full-time while in school, are caretakers for dependents, and/or did not receive a traditional high school diploma. 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.
Food insecurity while in college can have detrimental effects on students’ academic performance and health. The mixture of food insecurity and stress of college contributes to food-insecure students being more likely to fall into a lower GPA category compared to their food-secure counterparts, diminishes students’ ability to excel in class, and contributes to lower attendance and completion rates. In addition to academic performance, the health and well-being of students also suffer because of food insecurity. Students who are food insecure are more likely to report indicators of stress and depression. Furthermore, to make their food dollars stretch, food-insecure students choose cheaper, highly processed, often fast foods that can contribute to the overconsumption of added sugars, refined grains, and added fats. These behaviors are associated with an increased risk of obesity, a health condition that follows them through their lifetime. All these issues compound on one another to promote poorer health and education outcomes in students who experience food insecurity.
- After successfully launching a Community Feed for TCC’s Norfolk campus, a second one has now been established at the college’s Portsmouth campus. It’s a place where students can gain access to fresh produce, protein, dairy, and other pantry staples, as well as household essential items like baby formula. This new site is in the Student Resource and Empowerment Center which is a single-stop site that connects students with a variety of free, comprehensive social services and financial resources to help them stay focused on their academic goals and personal development.
- This past spring, our partners at Eastern Shore Community College 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.
Actions To Take This Week:
- Help end college student hunger by asking lawmakers to send funding to public colleges who are addressing student hunger on campus. Find your representative here.
- Sign on this letter to add college student hunger to the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health agenda.
- Watch and share this PBS News Hour video to learn how pop-up pantries are aiming to reduce food insecurity for college students.
- Read this article from The Hill that explores the connection between hunger and reduced academic outcomes—and how individuals in rural communities and minority groups are often disproportionately impacted.
- Sign up for a volunteer shift at The Community Feed at TCC or The Community Feed at ESCC.
- Explore Feeding America’s resources on college student hunger statistics and research.
Before the pandemic, many of our neighbors were already faced with difficult choices like making a rent or mortgage payment or buying food. For our neighbors of color, African Americans were two and half times as likely and Latino individuals were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White individuals. These issues have only been exacerbated over the past two and a half years. For individuals and families struggling financially, choosing between keeping a roof over their heads and filling the fridge often means families go hungry. Our organization focuses on targeting resources toward communities disproportionately impacted by food insecurity, poverty, and lack of access to fresh affordable foods.
In 2018, the Foodbank conducted extensive mapping to identify communities with high rates of food insecurity and low access to grocery stores. On top of these maps, we layered information about our partners and programs in each community. We will continue to focus on communities with the greatest need to ensure that all families can have access to healthy, nutritious foods.
These maps highlight population-level statistics in two urban and rural communities within our service area, one in Norfolk and one in Western Tidewater—including Franklin, Southampton County and Isle of Wight County— where food insecurity disparities are most severe. These neighborhoods represent the wide range of food insecurity rates in our community, even in areas that are adjacent to one another, illustrating our reason for not only “feeding the line” but “ending the line.”
- 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. That’s why the Foodbank is opening the Western Tidewater Branch and Community Produce Hub in the City of Franklin. The new building, located at 618 South Street, will enable the Foodbank to expand services and will include a warehouse that will give partner agencies more convenient access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. This facility will feature a café, conference rooms, and 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.
- In keeping with the Foodbank’s mission of both feeding the line and ending the line, we are thrilled to partner with Virginia Beach GrowSmart to address this root cause of food insecurity. At our most recent large-scale drive-thru distribution, representatives from this organization were on site to provide educational tools including kindergarten readiness resources for families with children under the age of five as well as free children’s books. Nourishing minds is just as critical as nourishing bodies to ensure that a family will thrive.
- The Foodbank advocated through the Virginia General Assembly to support passage of the Food Access Investment Fund. This bill was passed in 2020, but funding for the Fund was not fully appropriated. Although there was a funding gap of $4.75 million, the Governor did use the appropriated $1.25 million to provide 15 grants to expand the number of retailers and entrepreneurs providing access to nutritious fruits and vegetables and SNAP incentives in systemically under-resourced communities and bridge the gaps in our food supply system, especially in food deserts.
Actions To Take This Week:
- Improve access to affordable housing by asking lawmakers to support capacity-building activities to minority and low-income populations facing housing instability and community disinvestment. Find your representative here.
- Help improve access to affordable housing by providing capacity-building activities in neighborhoods having high concentrations of minority and low-income populations.
- Listen to “SOLD OUT: The Color of Evictions” podcast from NPR highlighting that evictions do not affect everyone equally. Millions of renters in this country have struggled to make rent after losing income during the pandemic. And Black renters, particularly Black women, are more likely to be evicted than white renters.
- Watch this segment of Sesame Street that introduces children to Lili, a young girl who loves the color purple, enjoys spending time with her friends and, unfortunately, has been experiencing housing insecurity.
- Watch this video of Lamont telling his family’s story. Too often, they had to decide between powering their home or putting food on their table.
- Host a food drive to collect items for those without access to a kitchen. Items can include non-perishable food such as cereal bars, peanut butter, pre-packed cheese, tuna or chicken salad snack packs, crackers, fruit snacks, apple sauce, and trail mix as well as toiletries and personal hygiene items.
- Become familiar with the importance of SNAP benefits and how they promote protecting families from hardship and hunger by reading this article.
Key factors of food insecurity include unemployment, income shocks, and lower assets – all important drivers that impact a household’s ability to afford food and weather hard times. This has been particularly evident during recent times as individuals have experienced income losses and subsequently found themselves in need of food assistance, many for the first time. For individuals to consistently access healthy foods for themselves and their families, it requires more than the Foodbank providing a meal to last a day or a box of food to last a week. It requires access to jobs that pay a living wage and tools to work toward career advancement so that individuals can achieve self-sufficiency. It requires large and long-lasting change.
- The Foodbank’s Feeding Your Future program provides no-cost meals and meal kits to two cohorts of students and their families enrolled in the Fast Track Health Care Program within the Division of Workforce Development at Paul D. Camp Community College. With some of their immediate food needs met, participants can more easily make time for skills development and set longer-term career goals. New skills can create pathways out of hunger and can help program participants more fully participate in and benefit from the growth in our local economy.
- The Foodbank partners with Hampton Roads Workforce Council to distribute resources to our neighbors surrounding skills exploration, technology access, job and training searches, employer referrals, workshops, resume development assistance, networking skills, and interview techniques.
Actions to Take This Week:
- Help improve food access and affordability by asking lawmakers to invest state/local government funds into the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund, which supports small grocers and farmer’s markets in areas with limited food access and promotes employment and trade development in underserved communities. Find your representative here.
- Visit this archive on Feeding America’s research on the relationship between poverty, unemployment, and food insecurity.
- Organize a fund drive with your colleagues. As a group, you can make a large impact for individuals in our community while promoting teambuilding and corporate social responsibility.
- Share this blog post about Danielle, a mother of four who is training to become a maritime welder. Receiving fresh foods from the Foodbank gives her peace of mind and allows her to focus on her career path.
- Share these 18 resume tips from The Wall Street Journal to help you or someone you know stand out in the job search process.
To be financially literate, a person understands how to create and stick to an individual or household budget, build an emergency fund, avoid, or overcome debt and manage income in a way that will lead to stable and successful financial outcomes. Without receiving education on managing finances, individuals are more likely to experience debt and live paycheck to paycheck, prioritizing other necessities, like rent, utilities, and other bills over purchasing food.
- The Wesley Community Center in Portsmouth is offering four unique distribution times each week: two distributions to the public, one for seniors, and one for parents with kids with special needs. The Center was an active partner agency, as well as an active community center, before the Foodbank opened the Food Hub, which offered built-in relationships and activities. The Center, in addition to food distribution, offers clients wraparound services such as mental health services, GED courses, medical wellness checks, a clothes closet, financial literacy classes, and activities for youth such as virtual tutoring and summer camp, and a Girls Who Code club.
- The Community Feed at Jordan-Newby serves a predominately African American community, adjacent to the St. Paul’s community, which has the highest food insecurity rate in our service area. The Community Feed distributes food three days each week, with evening and Saturday hours. Located near Norfolk State University and Booker T. Washington High School, this location allows for partnerships with students, parents, and other community members. We are partnering with other local agencies to offer wraparound services such as SNAP outreach, financial literacy classes, and health and wellness checks.
- For some, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the most viable option for consistent access to healthy, nutritious food. As demand continues to rise, we recognize that food banks alone cannot close the meal gap for the 130,000+ individuals in our service area who are facing food insecurity. SNAP provides nine meals for every one meal provided by the Foodbank. SNAP also bolsters the economy. Studies show that for every dollar of SNAP benefits spent, $1.70 is returned to the local economy. In FY 2021, our foodbank enabled 1,200 SNAP applications. This generated more than $2.4 million in SNAP benefits, provided more than 795,000 meals to our neighbors, and returned more than $3.8 million to the local economy.
Actions to Take This Week:
- Americans overwhelmingly believe that lack of financial education contributes to bigger social issues in America, including poverty, lack of job opportunities and wealth inequality. Read this article from Fortune detailing how COVID-19 unveiled a lack of financial literacy in our country.
- Money is tight, and food insecurity is at all all-time high. Read this article from AARP to learn cost-cutting methods to apply when grocery shopping.
- Explore Bank On Hampton Roads, a local nonprofit that offers free, five-month financial literacy programs to help participants become financially empowered and feel confident in making sound financial decisions.
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a critical resource for families struggling to make ends meet, but these benefits are often insufficient to meet living expenses. Practice calculating a household budget using SNAP benefits.
- Consider joining our monthly sustainer program, FEED365, to give monthly and feed daily. Whether your monthly gift is $5, $50 or $500, these donations allow us to more effectively plan where to distribute funds to make the most impact.
Hops for Hunger
In honor of Hunger Action Month, the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore is joining forces with local breweries to collect donations of food and funds for hunger relief through the Hops for Hunger inaugural campaign!