Goodness, these are extraordinarily challenging times. Our world has changed so abruptly, in such a short period of time, that we wonder if we can cope. The answer is an emphatic yes. You need not look further than our very own central Virginia, where every day we have been witness to neighbors helping neighbors without hesitation, without judgment. That is who we are and why we will get through this.
Thousands of compassionate individuals and countless businesses and foundations across the region have stepped in to help our neighbors in their times of need. Whether through donations of food, funds and/or time, we are inspired and humbled by those who have stood with us from all corners of our geography.
As a community backbone organization, Feed More continually looks forward on behalf of our clients and began preparing mitigation strategies around the COVID-19 pandemic on March 3. Since then, we, and many others, have been working mightily to meet the need across our service area of 29 counties and five cities.
We’re able to continue to carry out our mission by leveraging our proven food distribution methods and adjusting our operations to meet demand, while keeping safety as our top priority. We shifted our Meals on Wheels deliveries from a Monday to Friday delivery schedule to once a week to keep our homebound clients and volunteer drivers safe.
We also split our Bayard Community Kitchen staff and volunteers into two separate buildings to adhere to physical distancing and help ensure continuity of our operations. Additionally, our School Market and Mobile Pantry distributions have moved to low-contact or drive-thru methods to ensure the students, families and individuals we serve have access to healthy meals in the safest manner possible.
In April, our Distribution Center moved 57% more product than we did a year ago. Our vast distribution network of more than 270 other nonprofits has held up remarkably well under the stress of these uncertain times.
These food pantries, churches, soup kitchens, emergency shelters and community organizations are on the front lines of fighting hunger and remain steadfast, now more than ever, in their commitment to look after those who are food insecure. We all owe them a debt of gratitude.
We know the road ahead will not be easy, and the needs of those we already serve has only gotten deeper. While most of us stocked up on essential items, many of the low-income neighbors we help continue to struggle to afford what they need for the next few days.
Additionally, there is an emerging segment of our neighbors whom we believe will soon find themselves in a tough spot. At a 15% unemployment rate, we foresee an additional 100,000 of our neighbors becoming food insecure. These individuals never have relied on a food pantry or ever thought they would be in a position where they couldn’t provide for their family. Our hearts go out to them. And so will our food.
At the same time, we support the recent proposed 15% increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help ensure these neighbors have increased access to food without overloading the food banking infrastructure. It is an essential scale solution that will help us weather the storm.
We have witnessed firsthand the tremendous challenges our existing and many new clients are facing. It is our job and our responsibility to look after our community in their times of need. While everyone has been so supportive of our cause, we also would ask you to remember our other nonprofit brethren who do so much for these same neighbors — including mental health, housing and homelessness.
Every day, I am reaffirmed that the most resilient thing in this entire world is the human spirit. I am honored to witness it with our incredibly dedicated staff; our volunteers who give so much of their heart to our mission; our donors whose generosity brings our work to life; and our clients who are so resilient, as they put one foot in front of the other and know they will get to the other side. To say we are humbled by our community and those we serve is an understatement.
On behalf of Feed More and our volunteers, donors and clients, we extend our sincere thanks and heartfelt appreciation for your belief in our mission. We will get through this with great pride and growth, together.