Fighting Hunger with the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore
Volunteering while traveling allows you to peek behind the curtain of a community to get to know its inner heart. It provides a uniquely un-touristy look at the local culture through the eyes of residents who are passionate about supporting, protecting and enhancing their corner of the world and the humanness that exists within it. For a brief moment in time you participate in their story and become part of the strength, compassion and resilience which makes their community thrive.
I had traveled to Norfolk for a job interview and coupled that with a shift at the Food Bank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore (FBSV). Arriving at FBSV, I was greeted by their friendly staff and a tour of the facility, including information on the organization’s background, mission and impact. FBSV opened in 1981 and has since distributed more than 331 million pounds of food to needy families through a variety of programs including food rescue programs, Community Gardens, warehouse distribution programs, Mobile Pantries, and more.
The FBSV collects and organizes food donated by local citizens, farms, food manufacturers and distributors, organizing and distributing it to over 400 partner agencies such as food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens and child nutrition programs.
Each month they distribute over 1.5 million pounds of food!
I was assigned to work at the Agency Warehouse Distribution Program which is at the heart of their programs to support the community.
Each day a variety of partner agencies visit the warehouse to choose life-saving food and other items for their organizations.
My duties included ensuring the many rows of foodstuffs in the “shopping” area of the facility were well stocked. I also helped weigh the shopping carts as each group finished their shopping.
My role provided plenty of opportunities to have conversations with the agency representatives, who shared information about their organizations and passions and the impact the FBSV has on their programs.
Accessing food through FBSV instead of purchasing it commercially meant they could repurpose those funds to other programs and resources, allowing them to have a broader outreach and offer more support to clients. In this way the FBSV is creating ripples of generosity!
The FBSV also has programs aimed specifically at supporting children and their families. One example is their School Mobile Pantry, which allows parents to pick up nutritious groceries when they drop off/pick up their students from school. It is a super convenient and cost-effective solution to child hunger.
Another example is their Summer Food Service program, which is aimed at ensuring food-insecure families (who typically rely on school-provided breakfasts and lunches to feed their families) don’t struggle to have enough food over summer break.
One of the things I really love about the FBSV is their focus on involving the entire community in the solution to hunger. They work exceptionally hard to bring in individuals and groups of volunteers, working alongside local corporate businesses, groups and other organizations to promote volunteering at their warehouse. The organization works with over 6,200 volunteers annually, who contribute over 41,000 hours!
They also participate in the National Letter Association of Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, where citizens throughout the area can leave out bags of donated food that the postal workers pick up on their routes.
Programs such as these raise awareness, reduce stigma, and create an ecosystem that holds space for community-driven transformation around hunger as each person becomes involved in supporting the hungry.
I learned much about the local community and met some really amazing people during my shift. Volunteering while traveling always provides a rich experience that moves beyond those found through travel guides. I left with stories of resilience, hope and passion and a special place in my heart for Norfolk!
Thank you for sharing this week’s journey with me!
- To learn more about the Food Bank of Southern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, and to make a donation (every $10 donation translates to $60 of grocery products for those struggling with hunger), visit: https://foodbankonline.org/
- All photos of inside facility were taken by me.
- Photos of box of food, stamp out hunger logo and FBSV logo are from FBSV website.