Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Covid-19 made Hunger in Virginia worse

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we need to talk about those with less. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, nearly 10% Virginians were considered food insecure. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap report, the best available approximation of food insecurity prevalence, 842,870 Virginians experienced food insecurity in 2018, including 233,530 children. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem, by the loss of jobs in the service sector.  Feeding America estimates that an additional 447,000 Virginians will experience food insecurity in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing the Commonwealth’s food insecurity rate from 9.9% to 15.1% on an annual basis. It is believed that a larger share of Prince William County is food insecure.

We need to make sure that adequate food reaches the most vulnerable people in our community who were often the most impacted by Covid-19 pandemic. In April, the Prince William County formed the Community Feeding Taskforce. Since that time the taskforce has provided over six million pounds of food (the equivalent of five million meals), made over 1,100 emergency food deliveries to families and made over 800 no-contact food deliveries to shut-in senior citizens.  Each week, the taskforce receives at least nine tractor trailer loads of USDA Farmers to Families food boxes, 1,500 non-perishable food boxes from the Capital Area Food Bank and donations from 145 food donor partners, which it uses to support 72 food distribution sites.

Nonetheless, we must continue our efforts to make sure all our citizens have adequate food. Prince William County has an online map that provides information about free food distribution sites. The Food Helpline is available for those in need Please note that effective Nov. 2, there are two changes to the Prince William County Food Helpline.

The new helpline days and times are Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The helpline is no longer open on Fridays. The phone number remains the same—703.794.4668. Bilingual volunteers staff the phones.

The helpline will make home food deliveries within 48 hours of receiving a call. The helpline will refer immediate requests for food delivery to the Salvation Army, Hope House or the Prince William County Community Foundation. 

There are lots of ways you can help stop hunger here in our own community. The Community Feeding Taskforce will prepare 10,000 Thanksgiving boxes for families in the area from Nov. 9-24. Volunteer groups interested in making boxes can sign up for three-hour time slots as part of the "Build-a-Box Contest."

On Nov. 18, the taskforce will support the Prince William Chamber of Commerce's toy drive event. Twenty taskforce "special rescue heroes" will transport toys collected at the Uptown Alley and Appliance Connection donation drop-off sites and deliver them to two local non-profits, SERVE and ACTS.

You can also donate to or volunteer with  Salvation Army, Hope House or the Prince William County Community Foundation or other food pantry. 

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