Feed­ing the mul­ti­tude

CH Food Pantry sees grow­ing need for food as­sis­tance

The Progress-Index - - FRONT PAGE - By Kelsey Re­ichen­berg Staff Writer

COLO­NIAL HEIGHTS — Orig­i­nally serv­ing a client base of only four fam­i­lies, the Colo­nial Heights Food Pantry has grown ex­po­nen­tially since its es­tab­lish­ment in 2004, and now serves 135150 fam­i­lies – which equates to 400 in­di­vid­u­als – weekly.

Ac­cord­ing to Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor War­ren Hammonds, the pantry’s suc­cess is a re­sult of var­i­ous forms of community sup­port and lo­cal part­ner­ships.

“We could not do what we do with­out two main things: community sup­port, both with vol­un­teers and do­na­tions of food and funds, and our two lo­cal foun­da­tion part­ners of Cameron Foun­da­tion and John Ran­dolph Foun­da­tion,” he said.

One of the main in­gre­di­ents for the pantry’s suc­cess

is the num­ber of vol­un­teer hours put in each week. Hammonds and an­other staff mem­ber are the only two paid staff, while the rest of the pantry is run by about 20 vol­un­teers.

“We get over 1,000 vol­un­teer hours within a month, and about 350 vol­un­teer hours ev­ery sin­gle week,” Hammonds said. “That’s al­most $7,000 a month on the scale of [the U.S. Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics].”

The pantry ob­tains their food and other prod­ucts through a va­ri­ety of sources, in­clud­ing their pri­mary source, FeedMore, which serves as Cen­tral Vir­ginia’s core hunger-re­lief or­ga­ni­za­tion. Ac­cord­ing to their web­site, FeedMore is “ded­i­cated to pro­vid­ing neigh­bors in need with healthy meals.”

“We pur­chase ev­ery sin­gle week from FeedMore ... some pro­tein and a lot of pro­duce ev­ery sin­gle week,” said Hammonds. “We get two ship­ments – a lot on Wednesday and some on Friday.”

The food pantry also main­tains part­ner­ships and re­ceives food from sev­eral lo­cal gro­cery stores, in­clud­ing Tar­get, Wal­mart, Food Lion and Publix.

“An­other big source is our part­ner­ships with lo­cal gro­cery stores, so we pick up [from the gro­cery stores], and they give us things that are no longer saleable at their level but are com­pletely good to con­sume,” said Hammonds. “Vol­un­teers com­mit their time to go pick things up from those stores ev­ery sin­gle day.”

“The pick­ups are done pretty much solely by vol­un­teers, so they spend their gas money and use their cars to pick up frozen meats, deli, dairy, shelf­stable food [and] pro­duce,” he added. “So a lot of the pro­duce that you will see was res­cued from those gro­cery stores.”

Af­ter ob­tain­ing the prod­ucts, the vol­un­teers spend the re­main­der of the week pre­par­ing the food, weigh­ing it, in­spect­ing it, sort­ing it into groups, and mak­ing sure it is stored safely ac­cord­ing to its needs. Fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als who qual­ify to use the pantry’s ser­vices are then able to visit on Thursday or Friday, when, based on fam­ily size, they can se­lect from a va­ri­ety of meats,

pro­duce, canned goods, milk, yo­gurt, healthy snacks and more.

“Each fam­ily or in­di­vid­ual is given a shop­ping cart with a num­ber on the front of it that sig­ni­fies how many peo­ple are in their fam­ily. Then they’re able to se­lect a cer­tain quan­tity of food from each sec­tion based on their fam­ily size,” Hammonds said. “An aver­age fam­ily of three will walk away with ap­prox­i­mately 65 to 70 pounds of food, and about 20 to 30 pounds of that will be fresh pro­duce.”

Peo­ple qual­ify to re­ceive food from the pantry based on two things: their place of res­i­dence and their in­come.

“You can just show up, but you do have to be qual­i­fied. So our two main qual­i­fi­ca­tions are where they live – they must live in Colo­nial Heights or [in] a small sec­tion of South Chester­field, in zip code 23803,” said Hammonds. “So we serve a rather small area, although that area has about 12 per­cent food in­se­cu­rity. It’s more than one out of ten that you would meet on the street that needs us.”

In­di­vid­u­als who wish to use the food pantry’s ser­vices also must show proof of in­come.

“So they have to qual­ify where they live and they have to qual­ify in­come. We won’t serve any­one who doesn’t meet a 200 per­cent fed­eral poverty level,” Hammonds said. “If their in­come is dis­abil­ity or food stamps, that’s re­ally easy to doc­u­ment be­cause the gov­ern­ment or the De­part­ment of So­cial Ser­vices ac­tu­ally gives them the doc­u­ment that tells us ex­actly what we need to know, which is their house­hold in­come. But if they have work­ing mem­bers of the house­hold, we ask to see pay stubs. We don’t keep those, but we doc­u­ment what they make.”

“And if a fam­ily were to come in new tonight, we’ll in­ter­view them right on the spot, and we’ll serve them, but then we’ll qual­ify them long-term when they show us all of the in­for­ma­tion that qual­i­fies them,” he added. “Those who don’t qual­ify, we re­fer them to fi­nan­cial aid ser­vices and other part­ners. We part­ner with a few peo­ple, like the Sal­va­tion Army in Peters­burg and Path­ways in Peters­burg. Both of­fer fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance/man­age­ment pro­grams.”

In ad­di­tion to their FeedMore and gro­cery store pick­ups, the pantry grate­fully ac­cepts do­na­tions from the community in the form of non-per­ish­able food items and fresh pro­duce, in­clud­ing healthy, low-sodium, low-sugar items such as beans, canned tuna in water, peanut but­ter, soup, veg­eta­bles, pasta, pasta sauce, ce­real, oat­meal and other whole grains, canned fruit, canned meats, baby food, and baby for­mula.

The pantry also ac­cepts fresh items from donors’ home gar­dens, as well as per­sonal hy­giene items in­clud­ing di­a­pers, baby wipes, tooth­brushes, tooth­paste, ra­zors, de­odor­ant, combs, brushes, soap, sham­poo, con­di­tioner or fem­i­nine prod­ucts.

The pantry also ac­cepts do­na­tions in the form of cash or credit/debit card pay­ments, which can be made on their web­site at chfood­pantry.org.

“The Colo­nial Heights Food Pantry is able to use each dol­lar given to us much wiser and much more fully than you can do when you pur­chase items to give to us. In other words,your dol­lar stretches quite a bit as we pur­chase foods from our pri­mary part­ner, FeedMore, at very low costs,” the pantry’s web­site reads.

Do­na­tions can be dropped off any week­day at the Colo­nial Heights Food Pantry, lo­cated at 530 South­park Boule­vard. Of­fice hours are Mon­dayWed­nes­day, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Thurs­dayFri­day, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Dis­tri­bu­tion hours are Thursday, 6-8 p.m., and Friday, 12-2 p.m.

Kelsey Re­ichen­berg may be reached at kre­ichen­berg@ progress-in­dex.com or 804-722-5109.

[KELSEY RE­ICHEN­BERG/PROGRESS-IN­DEX.COM]

Fort Lee soldier Danny John­son helps Colo­nial Heights Food Pantry re­cip­i­ents un­load their gro­ceries at their ve­hi­cles Thursday, April 5.

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