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Food banks have strong supply

Providers of food to those in need around the area have been able to increase their food output during the COVID-19 pandemic and anticipate being able to sustain these new levels.

Ellery Sedgwick serves as not only the president of Farmville Area Community Emergency Services (FACES), but he also has board memberships with Feed More, giving him insight into the food supply for FACES and food banks in the region.

Ellery
Sedgwick

“By far the major source of FACES’ food supply is Feed More, the Central Virginia Food Bank in Richmond,” he said. “FACES receives a semitruck of food from Feed More every Thursday, containing the staples, meat and produce for FACES’ Saturday distributions. Due to increased demand, we have received a couple of trucks in some recent weeks.”

He noted Feed More, which supplies about 300 member agencies from the northern neck to the North Carolina line, has been quite successful in sourcing additional food and assured FACES that it has a sufficient supply to keep pace with the increased demand.

“The federal government has increased (U.S. Department of Agriculture) USDA distributions, loosened eligibility and developed new programs to prevent waste of food and losses to farmers,” Sedgwick said. “FACES has been designated a regional emergency pantry to receive more than 1,000 pounds of dairy products and 2,000 pounds of very good extra produce weekly from private sources subsidized by USDA.”

Sedgwick stated FACES’ eligibility policy has until recently been based on the USDA policy of distributing to regional households with incomes up to 150% of the federal poverty level. This level varies depending on the number in the household, beginning at about $12,000 for a household of one.

“In response to COVID, however, both USDA and FACES have waived this eligibility restriction,” he said. “In addition to families under 150% of the federal poverty level, FACES now serves any client who has lost employment due to COVID closures.”

Unlike many urban food pantries which have seen food output increases of more than 100%, FACES’ numbers have not increased exponentially, Sedgwick noted.

“But we have clearly had modest increases in registrations during the last two months by local residents who have been laid off,” he said.

He said FACES has also started a new joint program with Piedmont Senior Resources Area Agency on Aging Inc. (PSR) that distributes around 180 20-pound boxes of produce and staples to supplement PSR’s prepared meals for seniors in Prince Edward, Charlotte and Cumberland counties.

FACES distributions take place every Saturday from 8-10:30 a.m. at the organization’s warehouse at 482 Commerce Road in Farmville, the FACES website noted.

Just like FACES, Cumberland Community Cares at Delma’s Pantry (CCC) is a partner agency with Feed Moore and is also a crisis relief center, so it receives its food from Feed More.

CCC President Doris Seal said her organization had been helping 120 people two times a month, and now it is serving 200 people weekly. It switched to weekly service when the emergency status came into effect in March and is dealing with about twice as much food as it did in the past.

Seal noted CCC is helping some of the same people but also a lot of new people.

“I think we’re getting more younger people coming,” she said. “We’re seeing more seniors, but some of our seniors that have been coming, I think, are trying to get someone else to pick up their food because they’re a little afraid to come out.”

Each bag of food weighs about 30 pounds, Seal said, and it usually includes some type of grain, fresh vegetables and fruits, frozen meat, canned goods and sometimes some dairy.

“It’s a nice assortment of food,” she said.

Because CCC is dealing with so much more food now, a lot more work is required to get the food moved in and packaged before distribution.

“Probably the biggest thing that we’ve seen is just a need for more volunteers,” Seal said. “Many of my volunteers were seniors that have retired, and so we were concerned about their being out in the public since they were a high-risk group.”

Those interested in volunteering can call (804) 385-9421 or send an email to delmaspantry@gmail.com.

CCC is distributing its food Fridays from 9:30 a.m. until it runs out, which has been around 10:30-11:30 a.m. The distribution site is in front of the Cumberland County Middle School at 16 School Road.

“We also distribute Senior Boxes, which is a USDA program,” Seal said. “We have 140 of those boxes. Most of those are already allocated, but we’re doing that. And on the third Monday of each month, we do the mobile pantry distribution, and that is for about 300 people.”

Prince Edward County Public Schools (PECPS) continues to provide a week’s worth of breakfast and lunch meals for people in the community amid the pandemic — now more than before.

“I’ve definitely seen an increase or a need of people, households needing meals, and I thought that was going to happen when this all started,” PECPS Supervisor of Food Service Bruce Davis said. “We started out really slow back in March, but as money runs out, people have to find other resources, and we’ve been there.”

He said the school division was handing out 400 total meals — 200 breakfast meals and 200 lunch meals — on distribution days back in March, and lately it has been 720 total meals each Tuesday and Thursday. But this is going to change.

“We’re taking this week off for Memorial Day, giving the staff some rest, and contracts ended, so we had to do some labor changes and things like that, but we’re still going to provide seven days worth of meals, but we’re going to give them out just one day a week on Thursdays,” Davis said.

This change will begin Thursday, June 4. Distribution will be from 10 a.m.-noon each Thursday throughout the summer, and the list of distribution sites will go from six to four. The four remaining sites are as follows:

• Prince Edward County Middle School bus loop — 1603 Zion Hill Road, Farmville

• Parkview Gardens Community Center parking lot — 204 Parkview Drive, Farmville

• Meherrin Volunteer Fire and Rescue parking lot — 102 Moores Ordinary Road, Meherrin

• Prospect Volunteer Fire Department parking lot — 45 Campbell Hill Road, Prospect

Describing what the meals being served consist of, Davis said it varies. There are pre-cooked items, like chicken nuggets, pizzas and burgers that simply need to be heated and served, whole fruits, shelf-stable milk and vegetables. Breakfasts can consist of cereal, biscuits, chicken patties, sausage patties, juice and fruit.