On December 22, 2009 I went to the Richmond Food Bank ( http://www.cvfb.org/ ) and wanted to purchase a couple of cards and see about taking a tour of their operation. I was lucky enough to tag along with a tour that was being given to some local boy scouts. All I can say is that I was totally amazed at what all they do. At one time I thought that they only took care of the Richmond area. Boy was I ever so wrong. Also, now the Richmond Food Bank and Meals on Wheels have combined into one. Meals on Wheels ( http://mowdelivers.com/ ) delivers about 100 meals a day to Seniors and people with disabilities both physical and mental.I understand it takes $5:00 per meal. That’s what they tell you when you purchase any of their cards. But I also know there are many different things that they do and I haven’t visited or toured that area yet. I do know however that the same kitchen is used for both operations. It’s called the Community Kitchen. I wasn’t able to tour that area either but very much look forward to going back to see their processes. All of these combined organizations do a huge amount of recycling and the entire Community Kitchen is completely green.
Our food bank is one of 250 around the country to provide services. There are 25 in Virginia alone.All the Food Banks are a part of the Feeding America program. Ours in Richmond works with and supplies 31 surrounding counties and 5 cities alone. Everything is directly used in Virginia. They use 1000 cans of tuna a day. While tuna, peanut butter, canned vegetables, canned fruit always remain the most needed items. The entire operation is aware and is trying to send more balanced and nutritional and healthy foods to participants and cater to approximately 15 different types of diets daily. The Food Bank goes through an average of 170,000 lbs. of food daily. Nearly all retail grocery stores contribute. Perdue sends many pallets of chicken to help with meeting needs of fresh meats. As of the 22nd they had already given out over 7300 turkeys. Every week a full size tractor and trailer hauls a load of food to Farmville for the many people in need there. I asked how all the area churches played a part and was told that basically they are filling the gaps that are being missed.
To apply for food all one has to do is actually go there and tell of their need and they will receive help. There mission is that no one should go hungry, period. It takes 1 lb. of food to feed on person. Their meals average $1:00 a meal not cooked. They totally survive through donations. The ones that most of us are accustom to, are the canned and non-perishable items. Any money donations they use to purchase other things like meat or perishable items and to pay bills. For example we were allowed to tour the refrigerator and freezer area also. It cost $6000.00 a month alone just to run them. When I visited, the shelves and boxes were full. I was told that in the beginning of November the entire shelves and warehouse were bare. Scouting for food is responsible for supplying most of the food on the shelves. They actually have the boxes marked and the amount would astound anyone that wasn’t familiar with this. On that particular day there was 1.4 million lbs. of food in the warehouse. I can’t imagine going back and seeing the shelves empty. Everything is weighed on arrival. The question was asked that since the economy was so bad were they receiving less food than normal. They say that it is actually balancing itself out because the ones who were able to give large donations before aren’t able to now, but that there are many more people giving smaller donations. So people please don’t think that anything you do is insignificant in any way. The Eagle Scouts have built all the wooden boxes, pull trucks, shelves and other things. One thing I also noticed upon driving up to the main entrance was a large donation drop box that had been donated by Philip Morris. You often hear negative things about the company and I thought it important to include something positive that they also do.
A huge amount of all food distributed goes to feeding children. Our guide explained to the boy scouts that he could take them on any given evening to a chicken restaurant in Richmond and they would see children going through the trash out back looking for partially eaten food because it was better than what they had at home. He also explained that the next time the kids had a snow day or an unscheduled day off of school to be happy as they usually are but in the back of their minds remember that all the children that depend on food from school won’t get to eat that day.
Here also is another area that I was definitely not informed on. The inner city schools and the reason they never score as well as the counties school children on SOL test. Part of the Doctorate program for some up and coming doctors were to tour and learn about the Food Bank and its operations. They told a very sad fact how food played into such things. The first meal of the day of a growing child goes to building and forming the organs properly. The second meal of the day goes to the actual weight of the child. The third meal of the day goes to the proper building and formation of the brain. Bottom line, if children aren’t getting properly well balanced meals their bodies can’t form and grow properly. Therefore making it so much harder to compete and compare to other children who have had proper nutritious food.
Another area that I find incredible and should never be allowed in this country. The Food Bank takes a full size tractor and trailer to Ft. Lee every month to help provide 2500 participants with food for the soldiers and their families. There are absolutely no viable excuses for this to even be a need. It’s a total disgrace in my opinion.
Some little known facts are that when Meals on Wheels and the Central Virginia Food Bank combined into one non-profit organization then President George Bush came to our Food Bank in Richmond to see how it was run and that things were going right. Also, Governor McDonald and his family have been volunteers with the food bank for many years. Unlike most politicians they actually work and not just contribute money. The large dinner most Governors have every year and invite political and other society people. McDonald actually holds his for the Eagle Scouts of Virginia. Also, in the Food Bank warehouse there is a separate area that holds USDA products that is purchased and used by the Government for disasters. At any given time the President can call and collect this food. When Katrina hit New Orleans, which is only 600 sq. miles. All 250 Food Banks across the country filled 1500 tractor and trailers full of food and it was sent New Orleans way before FEMA was ever arrived there. That is something that was never publicized.
Upon leaving I ask our guide if anything was being done to provide the needed supplies other than food such as toilet paper, cleaning supplies and hygiene products that are needed on a daily basis also. He told us that it was an area which as of now there was not much was being done in. The Food Bank doesn’t normally handle anything like that but recently some people had been bringing items there and Target has taken an interest and is also bringing items there. He told me that they never refuse anything and they distribute them to the needy also.
In conclusion I would just like to say that please never forget that even something small and seemingly insignificant can make a big difference in someone’s life. Not only during the holidays but this is something that goes on every day and is growing more and more due to our economy and the families trying to survive. Also, my next article I hope to be on what is being done to keep the family pets with the families. To provide food, vaccines and general health care to the animals. Hopefully within the next week or so I will start with the SPCA gathering information that I can provide to you also.