The Federation is a Partner State Association of Feeding America, the national network of food banks and food rescue organizations. It was formed in 1989 to help support the food banks throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. Our mission is “building collective power within our network to create a hunger-free region.” The Federation’s mission doesn’t stop at feeding people; we also raise food and funds to benefit the food banks, create awareness of the issues of poverty and hunger, promote and sponsor programs to educate low-income families and give them the skills to become more self-sufficient, conduct statewide research and data analysis, and advocate on behalf of public policy changes to improve the quality of life for those who live in poverty or struggle during hard times.
The Federation is made up of seven independently-operated food banks and distribution sites located throughout the state. They are Feeding America Southwest Virginia (Salem), Blue Ridge Area Food Bank (Verona), Capital Area Food Bank (Lorton), Fredericksburg Area Food Bank, FeedMore, Inc. a.k.a. Central Virginia Food Bank (Richmond), Foodbank of the Virginia Peninsula (Hampton), and Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia (Norfolk). Each of these food banks has their own network of partner agencies which include food pantries, soup kitchens, after school programs, and elderly outreach programs.
To find the food bank near you, click here.
There are a number of state-wide programs administered by the Federation.
Legal Food Frenzy: Each spring, lawyers, law firms, legal departments and law schools compete in a food and fund drive. The winning team is awarded the Attorney General Cup, while there are winners at each level of size and per capita poundage. This drive raises over 8 million pounds of food.
Governor’s Bowl Chamber of Commerce Challenge: This summer food and fund drive invites Virginia’s chambers of commerce and state government agencies to compete for one of four awards. Started in 2012, this food drive is expected to collect necessary food and funds to help stock the shelves during the most barren summer months.
Fresh Food for Virginians: This program brings fresh fruits and vegetables to the Virginia’s food-insecure individuals and families. Through private funding and grants, this program purchases produce from local farmers, enabling them to sell slightly blemished items rejected from grocery store chains, at significant savings to the food bank. Relationships with farmers and distributors through this program also lead to donations of grocery product.
Food banks are non-profit organizations that collect donated food, rescued food, and purchased food for distribution to partner agencies. These agencies provide the food directly to people in need, either boxed and unprepared or cooked and served in meals.
Sometimes people confuse “food bank” with “food pantry.” The main difference is that the food bank is a distribution center to over 1,900 partner agencies in Virginia.
Food stamps, or SNAP benefits, are designed to supplement a family’s ability to purchase food. Each individual receives an amount determined by income and expenses. However, this amount is not enough to purchase a month’s worth of food; it simply supplements their food expenses, allowing them to make ends meet. As a result, SNAP benefits do not ensure an individual or family enough food for a month. This is where the food banks come in. Individuals or families can go to their local partner agency food pantry and have access to additional food items to help them make it through the month.
The primary mission of the food banks is to feed hungry Virginians, and in 2014 distributed over 142 million pounds of product to over 1,199,500 individuals through more than 2,608 member agencies that directly serve those in need. Individuals needing food assistance annually visited food bank distribution agencies 9,654,900 times. These agencies operate programs such as soup kitchens, after school programs, senior centers and elderly feeding programs, Kids Cafe® Program, Head Start, transitional housing, mental health programs, homeless and domestic violence shelters, and individual household distribution. Many of our partner organizations are familiar in the community: Boys & Girls Clubs, the Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities. In addition, the Federation of Virginia Food Banks handles the coordination and distribution of food and supplies to victims of disasters and emergencies both locally and nationally.
Virginia’s food insecurity rate is 11.8%, which means that over 910,000 Virginians do not know where their next meal is coming from.
In the most recent “Hunger in America 2014” study by Feeding America, the Commonwealth of Virginia Food Bank clientele served include: 30% children (8.7% are children 0 – 5 years old), 15% senior population 60 years and older, 56% households with at least one employed adult working for pay in the last 12 months and only 4% are homeless. Even more staggering is the report that 69% of those we serve live below the official federal poverty level. Additionally, an estimated 21% of households across the Commonwealth report that someone in their household has served or is currently serving in the US Armed Forces or as a member of the military Reserve or National Guard. Every day families join the ranks of the working poor; these are individuals who can’t make ends meet or who find themselves forced to make appalling choices after suffering devastating personal or financial crises beyond their control.
There are so many ways to help the Federation and your local food bank!
To donate to the Federation, click here. Your donation will be used to help advocate for the seven food banks as well as support state-wide initiatives.
To help your local food bank, you can volunteer, organize a food and fund drive, or donate directly. Find your local food bank here.
But you can be creative as well!
- Start a community garden and donate the produce to your food bank.
- Contact your elected officials and ask them to support programs to support the food insecure individuals in your community. These programs include SNAP, TEFAP, senior citizen programs, and others.
- Educate your friends and family about the needs of the hungry in Virginia. 1 in 4 individuals in our Commonwealth are food-insecure.
While food is always welcome at your Virginia food banks, money goes much further. Each food bank purchases food in bulk directly from distributors, which means at much lower costs than you can find in a grocery store. Therefore, for what you pay in the store for a can of soup, the food bank can get several cans of soup. We estimate that for every $1 donated, 4 lbs of food can be purchased.