License plates to help organization

Published 12:48 am Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Norfolk-based organization is hoping that proceeds from its new revenue-sharing license plate and a benefit concert later this month will help it expand services back into Suffolk.

Virginia Kids Eat Free is an organization that focuses on ending childhood hunger in the area. It has previously provided services in Suffolk but had to stop when the U.S. Department of Agriculture would no longer reimburse any service sites in Suffolk.

However, the organization is hoping that sales of its new license plate will help it raise enough money to provide services in Suffolk once again.

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“We were in Suffolk at Tabernacle [Christian] Church,” said Donyata Washington, co-founder and executive director of Virginia Kids Eat Free. “That was our main cooking site, and they provided food to five different locations.”

However, because other organizations also were providing food services in Suffolk during the summer, the USDA no longer would provide reimbursement to the organization to operate in Suffolk. Washington hopes to change that.

“We plan on being back across the state,” Washington said. “We’re working hard with some of our political leaders. There’s a lot of organizations that want us back.”

The program provides nutritious breakfasts, lunches and dinners for children during the summer in areas where 50 percent or more of the children get free or reduced lunch during the school year. When the children cannot eat at school, sometimes they don’t eat at all, Washington said.

“Those kids are sitting at home and they’re not eating, or they’re in programs and the parents can’t afford to give them a nutritious lunch,” Washington said. “We provide the food to allow kids to eat nutritious meals all summer long.”

The revenue-sharing license plate is almost on the streets — Washington is in the final stages of designing the plate in coordination with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Proceeds from the plate will provide unencumbered funds for the organization’s use.

“[Another organization] collected $400,000 off of license plates,” Washington said. “That would have helped us feed 1,500 kids a day. We have to follow USDA guidelines. They choose where we can feed at, but if we had our own funds, we could feed wherever we want to feed.”

In addition to the license plates, a benefit concert by Johnathan Nelson will be held Sept. 24 at Spring Hill Suites, 6350 Newtown Road in Norfolk.

For more information about the organization, the concert or the license plates, visit