BLACKSBURG – In collaboration with members of NRV Thrive, a network of agencies working to address food insecurity in the region, The Community Foundation of the New River Valley (CFNRV) recently released its 2023-2024 NRV Food Assistance Directory.
The directory aims to connect community members in need of food assistance to the programs providing this support and contains the details of 53 food assistance programs in the counties of Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, and Pulaski as well as the city of Radford.
In the New River Valley, it is estimated that at least 20,000 people, or 11.3% of the population, experiences issues with sufficient access to affordable food. This is higher than the national average (10.2%) that the U.S. Department of Agriculture shared in a 2021 report. Across the region, dozens of programs are working to address this issue, ranging from community gardens and school backpack programs to hot meals programs and food pantries. These programs are seeing an increased demand for their services.
“Between February and March 2023, when food stamps were cut, we have seen a 44% increase in the number of meals we serve,” said Gretchen Dee, director of Radford-Fairlawn Daily Bread. “The need for food aid had already massively increased during the pandemic, but the rising cost of food and the cutting of benefits have severely exacerbated this crisis. Poverty is a vicious cycle and people struggling with food insecurity are often trapped in circumstances well beyond their control.”
Those in need of assistance also face other barriers, including stigma around accessing services. “Our region has such disparity that is overshadowed by those who are more fortunate,” said Ryan Martin, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of The YMCA at Virginia Tech. “There is a great amount of shame accompanied by food insecurity, making people embarrassed and try to hide their need.”
Many experiencing issues related to food security are often dealing with other challenges related to housing, employment, healthcare, and more. Getting connected to resources while dealing with these circumstances can be difficult, particularly navigating the specifics of each program offering services.
“We hope this directory makes it easier for those seeking assistance,” said Jessica Wirgau, Chief Executive Officer of the CFNRV. “Our goal for is for this directory to be as comprehensive as possible, so we have included information on each program’s schedule, how often someone can use the program’s services, what types of products are offered, and any eligibility requirements or documents.”
The directory is just one project that the CFNRV is working on related to food insecurity issues. The foundation’s NRV Thrive food access initiative brings together organizations to better address regional needs by sharing resources and coordinating projects, including recovering and distributing food throughout the NRV more efficiently.
The directory can be accessed online at cfnrv.org/thrive. Those interested in getting involved with the CFNRV’s Thrive initiative may contact the foundation at 540-381-8999 or email@example.com.
Submitted by the Community Foundation of the NRV