By Emma Gauthier
Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Va. -- Every Thursday at 10:30 a.m., John White packs the trunk of his black Mercedes-Benz with meals that he distributes to people in need in Central Virginia.
For two years, White has been a volunteer with Feed More, a local organization involved with Meals on Wheels and Feeding America that serves Central Virginia through its 10 nutrition-assistance programs.
“It’s been an education for me,” White said. “There’s quite a bit of poverty out there and it’s so good to see the outreach that we have with Meals on Wheels.”
This Thursday, Kroger is funding over 800 Thanksgiving dinners with a donation of $7,500. This marks the fifth consecutive year that Kroger has donated to Feed More for the holidays.
“We’re immensely grateful to Kroger for their continued dedication to giving back to the community and their enthusiasm and passion for fighting hunger in Richmond,” Feed More CEO Doug Pick said in a news release.
The partnership makes it possible for families in need to spend their Thanksgiving enjoying turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and more.
At least 11% of U.S. households lived in a state of food insecurity at some point in 2018, according to the USDA.
Food insecurity is classified as households that are either uncertain of having, or unable to acquire enough food to meet the needs of their family.
Feed More has existed in Virginia for more than five decades, beginning with the formation of its Meals on Wheels program, which in 1967, served just eight clients.
Since then, the organization has grown to serve almost 200,000 people throughout 29 counties and five cities across Central Virginia.
“With the support of our community, we are able to provide our neighbors who face hunger with one of the most basic necessities: nourishment,” said Audrey Gilani, marketing coordinator at Feed More.
More than 1,600 people volunteered with Feed More in 2018, donating a total of nearly 70,000 hours. About 460 groups also volunteered for almost 83,000 hours.
“I am so impressed with the organization, the efficiency and the good-will spirit of the volunteers at Feed More,” White stated in a social media message.
Feed More received nearly $45 million worth of donated food in 2018, primarily from retailers, manufacturers and produce growers. Half of the donated food consisted of fresh produce and meat.
The organization receives millions of pounds of donated food each year. During 2018 the largest donor was Food Lion with more than 5 million pounds, followed by Walmart with about 4.5 million pounds.
Multiple Feed More programs are dedicated to children living in food insecurity. The Weekend Backpack program distributed over 55,000 meals to 54 schools for children to take home on weekends.
In Central Virginia, one in seven children do not know when their next meal will be, according to Feed More. Gilani says she is pleased with how programs such as Mobile Pantry, School Market and Weekend Backpacks reach vulnerable communities struggling with food access.
“Feed More is there for our neighbors when they need us most,” Gilani said.
Collectively, Feed More has distributed nearly 21 million meals to those in need.
“If the rest of us will just provide them with the resources,” volunteer Bill McCoy said, “the chances of anybody in the region having to go to bed hungry go way down.”
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.