Food Bank bracing for shortages
Within the last 60 days the Food Bank received word from food manufacturers that it would be receiving significantly less donated food due to advancements in technology that help manufacturers become more efficient. With less excess inventory, fewer products will be available for donation.
Compounding the problem is the threat of substantial drops in food donations from the federal government through the United States Department of Agriculture. The Food Bank is at risk of losing another 300,000 pounds of food as legislators seek ways to trim the budget.
“The demand for our services has never been higher, so the prospect of losing this much food is sobering,” said Larry Zippin, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank CEO. “We are very concerned about what this means for our operation and the people we serve in the coming months.”
The number of people seeking emergency food assistance is rising at an alarming rate. In 2005, the Food Bank was serving an average of 57,000 people each month. Today, it’s serving more than 104,000 peoplemonthly throughout its service area – 18,300 people in Lynchburg area; 20,500 people in the Charlottesville area; 33,300 people in the Winchester area and 32,000 people in the central Shenandoah Valley. Food distribution has more than doubled in the past four years from about 8.7 million pounds in 2007, to more than 20 million pounds distributed last year.
Zippin said the only way the organization will be able to keep pace with the growing number of requests for helpand make up for declining food donations is through sustained financial contributions and increased food contributions from local sources.
“These are long-term challenges,” he said. “Now, we must focus on solutions that allow us to meet immediate needs while reducing our reliance on these diminishing food sources.”
For now, the Food Bank’s strategy is threefold: 1) buy more produce; 2) secure more food donations through local grocers and large community food drives; 3) and purchase more food.
“We already purchase about 11 percent of the food we distribute,” Zippin said, “and there’s no getting around the fact that we’ll have to increase purchasing to keep pace with the need in our community. However, we cannot sustain huge increases in our purchasing budget, so we’re beginning to partner with other food banks on a cooperative purchasing program. This partnership will allow us to get more food for every dollar we spend.”
For every dollar one gives, the Food Bank can provide four meals to hungry neighbors. To help, visit brafb.org, or call the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to organize a food drive.