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Foodbank partners to feed seniors

The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore has partnered with several organizations and will begin delivering food to seniors throughout its service area beginning next week.

As part of its new fundraising campaign, Food+Faith=Hope, the Foodbank is working with the YMCA of South Hampton Roads, Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia and Mercy Chefs, a faith-based non-profit disaster relief organization, and has partnered with the region’s faith community to provide food for the region’s older population while raising money and awareness for its programs.

Food deliveries to seniors throughout the region, including Suffolk, will begin May 3 and will continue through July 3.

Foodbank President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Ruth Jones Nichols said in looking for new ways to sustain its work through the coronavirus pandemic, the Foodbank needs to raise money to serve the senior population of the region.

It also needs volunteers to deliver those meals to keep more vulnerable senior populations from having to go to a food pantry, and it is looking for people to serve as social ambassadors, Jones Nichols said, to help spread the Foodbank’s message.

The Foodbank is currently partnering with the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Immaculate and Calvary Revival Church, both in Norfolk, to help support its initiative, and Jones Nichols said it has already received $32,000 from the Virginia Beach-based Church of the Holy Family Catholic Church, and it has a goal of raising $236,250.

Jones Nichols said through its initial efforts, it has already provided 50,000 prepared meals for seniors and children, which is a part of the 1.5 million meals that it has provided since beginning its COVID-19 initiatives.

“This will build upon some of the things that we’ve already done, and provide for us an opportunity to do even more for seniors,” Jones Nichols said.

The plan is to scale up to provide about 3,000 prepared meals for seniors daily and 15,000 prepared meals weekly over the nine weeks of the program. The Foodbank is working on a modified plan to provide meals for multiple days in one delivery. She said that, through Senior Services, it is distributing a little more than 1,000 meals to seniors per day.

“It’s a significant undertaking by the initial partners and our additional faith-based partners that will be joining us,” Jones Nichols said, “but we certainly believe that, right now, we need to make sure we are serving the community in ways that are safe and make the most sense for vulnerable populations.”

Any senior experiencing food insecurity should contact senior services or contact the Foodbank to get connected to the necessary resources. Those wishing to volunteer can sign up for shifts on the Foodbank’s website. Specifically, the Foodbank needs volunteers to deliver the meals. Jones Nichols said those drivers would not be interacting with any seniors and would be given instructions and training on how to deliver the food safely.

Jones Nichols said the list of seniors it will be delivering food to is growing by the day. She noted that more than 3,000 seniors new to the Foodbank have come to its YMCA distribution sites across the region, including in Suffolk and Franklin.

Mercy Chefs is currently preparing meals and packaging them at its community kitchen in Portsmouth for the Foodbank to pick up. From there, volunteers will take two meals per day per senior.

“Collaboration has been key, because we’re doing together what none of us would be able to accomplish on our own,” Jones Nichols said. “And that’s really the beauty of this, this partnership between Mercy Chefs, Senior Services, the YMCA of South Hampton Roads, the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore and the faith-based community.”

Want to help?

For more information about the Food+Faith=Hope initiative, go to foodbankonline.org/food-faith-hope.