Grocery stores weren’t the only businesses that were ransacked by anxious customers when the coronavirus outbreak began. Food banks across Virginia were wiped out by individuals eager to stock their pantries to avoid public interaction as the pandemic ensued.
“People were panic-buying, if you will, at food banks as they were at the store,” said Katie Mandes, director of marketing and strategic initiatives for the Federation of Virginia Food Banks, or FVFB.
According to Mandes, Virginia food banks receive about 50% of their food donations from grocery stores; since individuals began wiping out supermarkets, food donations have plummeted. Volunteers are less plentiful. Food distribution has become more complicated, and food banks are fearful for an increase in food insecurity nationwide.
That’s where the Richmond office of Breit Cantor Grana Buckner comes into play. On May 21, the personal injury firm announced its partnership with the Federation to help raise money and awareness for food banks statewide.
“Food security has become really affected. We’re just concerned about those people in the community that don’t have access to food and the basic needs we should all have” said Courtney Sweasy, marketing director for Breit Cantor.
Breit Cantor therefore launched its “A Dollar Makes a Difference” campaign. The firm will match one dollar for every dollar donated up to $10,000 to the Federation through June 30.
Sweasy said that rather than just giving a donation to the Federation, the firm opted for a month-long campaign to help raise awareness for food banks that are struggling from the impacts of COVID-19. She added it is her hope that this campaign will emphasize to the public the every dollar “truly does make a difference.”
“We specifically wanted to do a matching campaign to really emphasize that a dollar donation is fine. That’s great,” Sweasy said. “We wanted to do something where people wouldn’t easily say that they don’t have the extra money to help… Just a dollar can make a difference.”
The Federation monitors seven food banks statewide. According to Feeding America, Virginia’s food banks are reporting a 40% increase in need across the board. Some pantries are serving twice as many people each week.
“The grocery store donations are starting to come back up, but they really dropped in March, and the food banks still haven’t recovered,” Mandes said, noting that food banks have begun purchasing food to distribute since donations have become less reliable.
She said another concern for the Federation is being able to provide food for the community during the “peak demand months” from June through December. Through partnerships with Sentara Healthcare and Truist Bank, the Federation is putting together “We Care Food Boxes” with the intention to distribute 50,000 packages of food – which equivalates to 750,000 meals – across the commonwealth.
“These boxes can be easily mass-produced, stored, shipped and delivered and done so with a limited volunteer staff,” Mandes said. “This will help us through the coming peak demand period.”
In addition to the donation campaign, this month Breit Cantor partnered with local restaurants to bring meals to local hospital workers throughout Virginia Beach and Norfolk.
Sweasy said even this “small gesture” can go a long way for healthcare workers right now.
“Hopefully this good will from our attorneys will just multiply” Sweasy said. “We’re all humans and we all have feelings… Get involved in whatever small way you can.”
In addition to donating to the “A Dollar Makes a Difference” campaign, Mandes said the best ways to assist Virginia food banks during the pandemic is to donate food and volunteer, noting that the dedicated staff at food banks could use all the help they can get.
“They have not missed a beat. They have not missed any work. They go to work and they’re out on the front lines. It’s been really kind of humbling to see it firsthand,” Mandes said.
For more information on donating to food banks, visit the Federation’s website.
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