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Food Donations Needed

CUMBERLAND – The Cumberland County Department of Social Services' food distribution program is in need of donations. The program, which is not required by the state and started approximately 20 years ago as a way to provide extra assistance to the Cumberland community, could end if donations aren't secured soon.

According to Director Karen Blackwell, the commodity food distribution program provided by the Department of Social Services in Cumberland accepts walk-ins and distributes food each second Wednesday of the month between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. and lately there hasn't been enough food to go around.

The Cumberland Department of Social Services is currently serving 125 households that rely on the food distribution program and deliveries are also made to several apartments.

“It varies,” she noted about those who receive this extra assistance. “A little more or a little less.”

“I've given out a commodity food distribution once a month for probably the last 15 to 20 years,” offered Blackwell.

She's been utilizing USDA food from the Food Bank in Richmond to fill in the gaps but after last month even that assistance seems to be coming to an end, according to Blackwell.

“We used to get 10 to 15 items,” she said about the Food Bank assistance, “but last month we didn't receive anything because they didn't have anything and for this month we received two items. We have received contributions in the past and we've also received FEMA grants in the past so that we could purchase food and supplement it but right now we have no money to do that supplement with. We're just in hope that we could…get some contributions so that we could continue our efforts of doing our food distribution once a month.”

Blackwell noted that the Powhatan Coalition of Churches made this month's distribution possible.

The coalition contacted Blackwell and expressed that they had extra food to share.

“We went and picked it up from them is the only reason we had anything to give out,” she offered.

“We're just trying to reach out to the community to see about having food donated or money donated…because they do have donated food at the Food Bank and we can purchase…,” she explained. “If we had money donated, we could purchase food there at that type of cost.”

Concerning those who qualify for this extra assistance provided by Social Services, Blackwell noted that there is an application that must be filled out.

“There is an application that they have to fill out,” she said. “And it's, of course, income guidelines and it depends on how many people in the house and it's certain income guidelines. But, generally, anybody that receives…SNAP (formerly food stamps) is going to be eligible. Typically, a SNAP household is eligible for our food distribution.”

But, because of the lack of food in the commodity food program offered by Cumberland, households are being turned away.

“We have nothing to give out at this point,” she said. “At this point, we have nothing. We're trying to reach out to the community to see if we can get donations since the Food Bank is so low in food as well…”

The types of food being accepted by Social Services are frozen and non-perishable food items.

“We have space for frozen food and non-perishables,” offered Blackwell. “We can't do refrigerator but we can do frozen or non-perishable.”

Cumberland's Social Services Board asked that Blackwell look into securing donations so that the commodity food distribution program could continue to serve those in need in the community.

“They really want to continue the program,” she told The Herald. “And we're just trying to reach out to any avenue that we can find. This is not mandated. This is something that we started doing to try to help the citizens of Cumberland County and, right now, with the economic times the way they are it's definitely needed.”

For more information about donating or finding out ways to assist Cumberland's Social Services food distribution program please contact Blackwell at (804) 492-4915.