The easiest way to get food from a Chesterfield food bank is to call Citizens Advice (opens in new tab), where an adviser will be able to issue you with a voucher to get an emergency food parcel from your local food bank.
”In 2020, more pain walked through the doors
of the Chesterfield Food Bank than ever before. Within weeks of Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order in March to “shelter at home,” and the subsequent shuttering of entire sectors of the economy, food supplies were disappearing from the shelves at the nonprofit’s warehouse on Iron Bridge Road.
“We had to pivot on a dime,” says Kim Hill, president and chief executive of the food bank. This year the nonprofit has seen a 200% increase in recipients, or clients, compared to 2019, and the amount of food distributed has nearly tripled, from 1.5 million pounds in 2019 (January to October) to 3.4 million pounds during the same period in 2020.
The food bank, which has grown every year since its inception in 2010, was already serving more than 60% of the county’s hunger needs before the pandemic. This year, the nonprofit is feeding people from across the region.
In addition to increasing numbers of county residents seeking help, roughly 20% of the food bank’s clients are now coming from outside of Chesterfield food bank (Henrico, Richmond, Petersburg, Hopewell, Colonial Heights, even as far as away as Cumberland), which has forced the organization to add new distribution sites – there are now seven total – and dramatically expand its summer feeding program for children, which serves those on free and reduced-price lunches when school isn’t in session. It’s also shifted how it distributes food, relying on a drive-thru format to reduce the potential spread of the novel coronavirus. This summer, the Friday night distributions regularly drew upward of 500 cars, at times backing up traffic on Iron Bridge Road for more than 2 miles. During the early months of the pandemic, the food bank was routinely serving 1,800 to 2,400 recipients on Friday nights.
The rise in demand has served to strengthen the food bank’s partnerships with local churches and other faith-based groups, Hill says, along with the school system and the county. The food bank has received $561,000 in CARES Act funding from the county this year, which has helped with food purchases and the installation of a new walk-in cooler and freezer, in addition to graveling over an auxiliary parking lot behind the nonprofit’s warehouse to pull traffic off of Iron Bridge Road. The Chesterfield Education Foundation also granted the food bank $75,000 to help expand its feeding program for school children.
“In the height of the pandemic, when a lot of things were closed and people were really losing employment, our applications just skyrocketed,” Rogers says. “Nonprofits like the food bank are key to helping us reach those people who aren’t eligible.”