LOCAL, STATE AND FEDERAL ACTION NEEDED TO CURB HUNGER DURING PANDEMIC
Virginia’s food banks taking collective action; request local, state, and federal support to address food security challenges amidst public health crisis
RICHMOND – It is expected that COVID-19, already a global pandemic, will continue to spread widely throughout Virginia. The impact on hunger in the Commonwealth is likely to be severe and far-reaching. School closures will cause students to lose access to free and reduced-price meals, which is often their only consistent source of quality nutrition. We are also concerned that many part-time and hourly workers, who already struggle to make ends meet, will see a reduction in their hours and income, if not the loss of their jobs altogether.
Some actions that Virginia’s food banks are currently taking include:
- Adjusting distribution models to emphasize low-touch and no-touch food distributions, drive-through pick-ups and appointment-based services
- Identifying opportunities to provide “to-go” meals through drop locations targeted to school-age children and vulnerable populations in order to promote social distancing
- Packaging additional privately funded, non-perishable foods to distribute to older adults
- Enhancing sanitizing practices within warehouses, instituting telework options where possible, and requiring waivers for volunteers to minimize spread of the virus while still addressing the need for as many hands on deck as possible to distribute additional food
“In many ways, we are in unchartered territory, but our food banks are well prepared to respond to this crisis,” said Eddie Oliver, Executive Director of the Federation of Virginia Food Banks. “We will continue to work closely with local school divisions and our 1,500 statewide partner agencies to meet the need in their communities while protecting the safety and well-being of our clients, volunteers, and staff.”
Virginia’s food banks are poised to deliver additional resources where they are needed, but we know we cannot do it alone. We are grateful for the support of Governor Northam and the state agencies with authority over federal commodity and nutrition programs. We are in close consultation with all relevant stakeholders to ensure every available regulatory flexibility is being leveraged to help us reach more people.
Additionally, we are urging that the U.S. House of Representatives pass (and the U.S. Senate subsequently pass) the House Emergency COVID-19 Bill introduced yesterday, which would, among other measures:
- Provide waivers to schools, child and adult care centers and other facilities to serve meals in non-congregate settings (for example, through take-home containers or delivery)
- Permit states the ability to request waivers to provide temporary increased SNAP benefits to address the loss of hours and wages for hourly workers without paid time off
- Permit states additional flexibility in managing SNAP caseloads
- Provide Crisis Response/Pandemic SNAP benefits to households with children attending schools that are closed due to this public health emergency that would have received free or reduced-price school meals if not for the closure of their school
- Provide additional funding in TEFAP for foodbanks to meet increased demand for help with food during this emergency
- Provide additional funding for Unemployment Compensation for workers impacted by this crisis
Food banks rely heavily on volunteers to maintain operations. If you are healthy and able, we encourage you to respond in this time of great need. High school and college students, reach out to your food banks to volunteer.
The Federation of Virginia Food Banks reminds displaced workers, families, seniors and others that SNAP is the first line of defense against hunger and that they should apply for benefits either online at https://commonhelp.virginia.gov/, by phone at 1-855-635-4370, or if necessary, in-person at their local Department of Social Services office.
The Virginia Department of Social Services has created a COVID-19 portal on its public website (https://www.dss.virginia.gov/geninfo/corona.cgi) where you can find the latest updates and resources as it relates to COVID-19 and guidance specific to the agency. The portal will be updated, as new information is available.