Located on Aluminum Ave you’ll find the Virginia Peninsula Food Bank. Their mission is to help alleviate hunger in and around the peninsula area, but Grants & Direct Marketing Manager, Craig Gallaer, will tell you it’s not easily done without the many organizations they collaborate with. “It’s all about collaboration”, he says, ” and the community is really our backbone. The primary way we distribute our food is through over 170 agencies that come pick up and distribute the food. That lets us reach so many more people than we could with just our small staff and trucks. Those agencies and other organizations are essential.”
The grant from Community Knights actually was put toward buying more nutritious food options that agencies request but aren’t normally found in our donations (such as fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Food Banks tend to see in influx of specific items that people typically donate such as canned goods, and still have other food needs in order to provide families with healthy, satisfying meals.
The Food Bank also runs various food assistance programs in order to further impact the community. One of these programs being the Backpack Program. Backpacks are filled with a weekend’s worth of meals and snacks for a child and are distributed to about 1,500 kids in 28 elementary schools. The schools identify children who would benefit from the program and are then distributed by the schools themselves. This is done every Friday for thirty weeks during the school year. Craig explained that “a child can’t be hungry for learning when they’re just plain hungry”. One in five children live in food-insecure households, meaning they are unsure of where or when their next meal will be. This program aims to not only to provide meals but to inspire hope and provide the best quality of life possible for our local youth.
This organization also has programs in place for adults to learn cooking skills while also providing meals for children in need. The Culinary Training Program is designed for “low-income adults who are looking to make a positive change in their life. It’s a 12-week in-house program where we teach individuals not just cooking skills but also life skills and financial budgeting. If you can help people get full time jobs, they’re less likely to be food-insecure. It’s a way to fight hunger with the power of education, and the meals prepared are served at our Kids Cafe during the evenings and summers”, says Craig.
The volunteers, staff, and community partnership utilized by The Food Bank has placed them on the path to massively impacting the community. Craig explained that everyone involved is very passionate about their work, keeping in mind that hunger can truly affect anyone. “People think it won’t happen to them, but it can. A lot of people who walk into our doors never imagined they’d be here. When you’re helping the food bank feed people, you could actually be helping your neighbor. I know it changed my perspective a lot when I arrived here. We couldn’t accomplish as much as we have without the support of our community through donations, volunteering, and just paying attention to the needs of our own neighbors and friends.” Hunger in Hampton Roads (and in fact America) isn’t caused by a lack of food, but rather a lack of distribution and a prevalence in poverty. In fact, 1 in 6 Americans will struggle with food insecurity. To make matters worse, 40% of perfectly good food in the United States is thrown out every year, equating 165 billion dollars worth of food that could arguably feed over 25 million people. While hunger cannot be eradicated overnight, both Community Knights and The Food Bank have taken strides to encourage and impact our local community in assisting the hungry and giving everyone the ability to live the most quality life possible for themselves and their families. Remember to take care of your neighbors, because anyone can struggle with hunger and everyone deserves a hot meal on their plate.