In case you missed me last week, I was taking it off for spring break. I do love BASIS, but I love my breaks from BASIS much more. Anyhoo, this week I had another informal convo with an official. In the next few weeks I plan to ramp up these conversations and interviews to be talking to multiple people a week, but this week was just one. I had the honor of speaking to Mr Eddie Oliver.
Mr Oliver is the head of the Virginia State Association of Food Banks. At its core, his job is to connect food banks within the state so that they can work in tandem and reach more of the state’s population. The association of food banks works with Government programs (most notably SNAP, the Department of Social Services, other state-run food insecurity programs for households. Additionally, Mr Oliver works to build the capacity of food banks in all regards – financial resources, donors, corporations (in our area, Dominion Energy is a big corporation which works with this association), resource sharing, and general knowledge. The association consists of seven members, six of which are headquartered in Virginia (the seventh serves the DC area and is based in the district). In total, these seven members represent over 1,500 local agencies to work with.
During our conversation, Mr Oliver talked me through how Virginian food banks managed the pandemic. Right at the beginning, food banks remade their typical distribution models. If you have volunteered for a food bank during the pandemic, you might know that food banks started to prepackage food and have drive-throughs for people to pick up these packets. However, the sheer number of people being laid off their work was mind-blowing. Feeding America estimates that the pandemic has pushed 275,00 more Virginians into food security, raising the total number of food-insecure to 1.2M/13% of Virginia. There has been an average 25% increase in food pantry utilization, and food banks in general have distributed almost 30 million more pounds of food in 2020.
Obviously, these are all very pressing statistics. Next week, I will be looking at various solutions to make food insecurity more easily treatable and other forms of addressing food insecurity in youth. See y’all!