Volunteers prepare bags of food for distribution near the end of the event.
Linda Thomas described Friday's visit from the FeedMore mobile food bank and a way to "bridge the gap" for those that do not qualify for food stamps.Linda and her husband Javon feel so strongly about giving back to the community that they were both volunteers on Friday. Linda, a self described contributor to the Food Bank for the last 24 years, has been volunteering for the last few months and described her experience: "The first few years I got food from the Pantry - when I was a single Mom. Then God blessed me and I was able to start giving. A few months go my Husband and I started volunteering."
Shortly after arrival volunteers have already packed many bags of food for distribution. Photos courtesy of Eric Miller.
While the Mobile Food Bank distribution was not scheduled to start until 10:00, many people were lined up and waiting when the truck pulled in and set up began. Hundreds of people were pre qualified for the event and tons of food were distributed. Friday's selection included Organic Salad Greens and frozen poultry to augment the typical canned and boxed food usually seen at food banks. According to Eric Miller with FeedMore, there is an effort to provide more fresh produce and nutritious foodstuffs. In an e-mail, Eric described the Mobile Pantry as a "refrigerated truck that delivers canned and boxed food and perishables to neighbors who live in areas with limited access to healthy and affordable food options, also known as 'food deserts'.” Emporia is among the top five cities in Virginia for food insecurity."
Volunteers nearly emptied FeedMore's Mobile Pantry on Friday Morning.
Emporia lacks a bus system, and is not pedestrian friendly, lacking even sidewalks for the last stretch of the walk to either Food Lion or Wal Mart. Residents who have no transportation must rely on cabs to travel to Walmart and other stores to buy food. A cab fare is often $10 one way and that amounts to $20 that might have bought 20 cans of protein-rich beans, said Dorothy Prince of Emporia, a volunteer at the Mobile Pantry distribution site.
Diane, an Emporia client of the Mobile Pantry, walked two miles to the Mobile Pantry. Fortunately, she found a cab driver who would transport her and her two hefty bags of canned and perishable food to her home for $5. She receives $53 a month in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and the once-a-month visits to Emporia from the Mobile Pantry are a big help, she said.
A few minutes after Diane left, the cab driver returned and took Eunice and Tara to their Emporia home for $5. The friendly cab driver said he would charge them only $5, adding, “I ain’t trying to get rich. Just trying to make a living.”
“There are so many people around here that are hungry,” said Marilyn Williams of Jarratt, a volunteer who hopes to open a food pantry at her church, Salem Baptist of Emporia.
Emporia has a high incidence of cancer, said several volunteers and a journalist at the Mobile Pantry distribution site at Peace of Mind Ministries along Main Street. Some food insecure residents must choose between buying food and paying for their cancer treatment or medication for other illnesses like Type-2 Diabetes. Overall, the August 2014 Hunger in America study revealed that 69 percent of FeedMore’s clients report choosing between food and medical care. Over one-fourth of Emporia residents are food-insecure.
Other low-income residents have to choose between buying food and paying their power bill, rent and heating bill, Prince said. Their homes have cracks in the floors and windows that allow cold air into their homes, she noted.
Friday's recipients were given enough food for several days. The bags included the salad greens and poultry, including whole chickens and turkeys and pre packaged chicken parts (all frozen for safety), bread, two varieties of soup, pancake mix, canned vegetables, almond milk and bottled water. In addition, there were fun items like Oreo and Chips Ahoy cookies and Cheese Nips. Each person received several packages of the poultry and two or three loaves of bread. Some of the food distributed on Friday is pictured here.
From their Website: "FeedMore serves neighbors across Central Virginia’s 31 counties and 5 cities, spanning nearly one-third of the state. Through partnerships with businesses, faith-based, non-profit, public, and other organizations, FeedMore offers comprehensive hunger solutions that target our region's most vulnerable neighbors: children, families and seniors. From our distribution center that provided food for 17 million meals last year, the Hunger Hotline that connects people to nearby pantries, to our Meals on Wheels home deliveries, FeedMore’s multi-tiered approach to hunger relief targets the many gaps in our region. Kids Café provides 2,200 snacks each day at 63 sites for children ages 5 to 18 and provides supper at 42 of those sites each weekday during the school year. FeedMore’s Backpack program provides 12,000 meals every weekend to kids who might otherwise go hungry most of the weekend. For more information, visit www.feedmore.org."
You will also find information on how to donate, host a food drive and where to find assistance on www.feedmore.org. According to their website, they are currently in need of Peanut Butter, Reduced Sodium Canned Vegetables, Whole Grain Snacks, Hot and Cold Cereal, Canned Spaghetti Sauce (no glass, please), Fruit Packed in Juice and Canned Chicken and Tuna. Cash donations are also gladly accepted.
Eric Miller, a Public Relations Associate at FeedMore accompanied the driver of the Mobile Food Bank and contributed to this story.