RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam, First Lady Pamela Northam, and members of the Governor’s Cabinet volunteered at food banks throughout Virginia today, highlighting the critical role food banks are filling for Virginians facing food insecurity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Food banks are an important first line of defense against hunger and food insecurity,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia food banks have gone to extraordinary lengths to increase capacity and streamline the distribution of food amid a growing need for their services. Our administration will continue to use a variety of programs and funding to ensure no Virginian goes hungry during this health crisis.”
Governor Northam, along with Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring and Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball, volunteered at Feeding Southwest Virginia in Abingdon, packing bags with fresh fruit and vegetables to be distributed to people in need across Southwest Virginia. First Lady Northam volunteered at the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, and Chief of Staff Clark Mercer, Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dan Carey, Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins, and Secretary of Administration Keyanna Conner volunteered at Feed More in Richmond. Chief Diversity Officer Janice Underwood volunteered with Congressman Bobby Scott, Congresswoman Elaine Luria, and Mayor Donnie Tuck at the Virginia Peninsula Food Bank in Hampton. A number of state legislators also participated in each event.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased food insecurity across the Commonwealth and as a result, more Virginians are using the services of food banks and other food programs. Prior to the pandemic, approximately 850,000 Virginians, including 250,000 children, did not know where their next meal would come from. Feeding America estimates that the ongoing pandemic could make up to 275,000 more Virginians food insecure.
“We rely heavily on volunteers to get donated food items packaged in a way that we can distribute it to our local partner agencies,” said President and CEO of Feeding America Southwest Virginia Pamela Irvine. “Volunteers are the backbone of our organization, and we welcome everyone who wants to come help provide this critical service in our community.”
The Federation of Virginia Food Banks operates seven regional Feeding America food banks across the Commonwealth that distribute food to partners within their regions. To support Virginia food banks or to learn more about volunteer opportunities, please visit vafoodbanks.org.
In July, the Commonwealth committed an initial $1.4 million in CARES Act funding to help launch a new statewide initiative with Sentara Healthcare, Truist, and the Federation of Virginia Food Banks called the “We Care” COVID-19 Virginia Emergency Food Support Plan, providing approximately 100,000 food boxes to Virginia families.
Earlier this month, Governor Northam allocated $7 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars to help Virginia food banks to continue to provide food to Virginians who need it. This funding is in addition to $650,000 in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding to support food bank services. In October, Governor Northam and the Children’s Cabinet released the Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger, a set of goals and strategies to prioritize food security during the Commonwealth’s response to COVID-19 and beyond.
Photos from today’s events are included below.
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