Private efforts help churches
Clients of Disciple’s Kitchen are always well fed by the consortium of churches that collaborate to serve them each week. But they may have noticed a certain professional flair to the lunches distributed in mid-April. That’s because the lunches were furnished by Scratch Kitchen, the Nelson County food truck associated with The Brewing Tree, both owned by Mark and Gina Thompson.
A volunteer from Disciples Kitchen approached them for help with feeding several dozen homeless people and “Of course we said yes,” said Gina. “Feeding the hungry has always been a passion of ours.” Following the instructions furnished by the kitchen, they donated mountains of ham and cheese sandwiches, accompanied by chips, fruit and Gina’s homemade cookies and brownies. “It was an honor to do this,” Gina said.
“It’s just Gina and me here now,” Mark said. With the outdoor kitchen and acres of open space, the Thompsons found it easy to operate in a safe manner, and have a limited menu and take-away beer in cans from 12 to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Recently, the new regulars have spread the word about Scratch Kitchen’s “scratch burger,” a hamburger topped with bacon jam. “It’s become kind of a thing,” Mark said: “We’re getting lots of love from our neighbors.” Mark said they were returning some of the kindness shown by the community since the brewery closed. “And we’ll do it again,” Gina said.
Denise Ramey of Denise Ramey Real Estate held a food drive in mid-April for the Crozet Baptist Church ministry and was disappointed in the results. She had asked people to drop off food at her office in Clover Lawn, and the response was limited. Ramey figured it was because people feared leaving home, so she decided to pick up donations. She let people know to put donations on their porches or near their mailboxes. She publicized her food drive on social media, and found that people all over Crozet and beyond wanted her to collect their donations of personal care products and shelf-stable food.
This time, the response was overwhelming, Ramey said. With her husband, Ricky Reed, and team member Kelly Nelson, she filled a van full of food and toiletries. At the request of residents, she traveled throughout Greenwood, Afton, Charlottes-ville and Crozet, and plans to continue her collection in other areas as long as there is a need.
Mary Beebe of Crozet’s Blue Ridge Massage Therapy decided to use her skills as a photographer once her massage business was temporarily closed. She travels Crozet’s neighborhoods, taking “porch photos” for those who ask, in return for donations to Loaves and Fishes, a non-profit food pantry in Charlottesville founded by Charlottesville’s First United Methodist Church. Since she hasn’t been able to work, “It’s kept me sane,” Beebe said. She’s given $1,500 to the agency and hopes to raise more.
Churches expand efforts to feed the hungry
Local churches are finding new ways to provide food to those who need it, a population that’s expected to grow with current unemployment. There are several obstacles to food distribution during the shutdown, which doubtless will continue even after the economy revives. Food pantry workers told the Gazette that many of their clients and even more of their volunteers are in the most vulnerable age groups, so protecting both from exposure has been key to continuing and resuming services. In most cases these difficulties have been addressed by switching to drive-through or pick-up operations, rather than letting clients serve themselves in a group setting.
Another big change came with the Governor’s emergency declaration, which allows churches and other institutions to provide food without collecting detailed information on income.
For years, Emmanuel and Holy Cross Episcopal churches have collaborated on the “Bread Fund,” a well-organized monthly program that keeps a large stocked pantry at Holy Cross south of Batesville. The effort previously used a client choice model to reduce waste and reflect the needs of the patron.
Nancy Avery, who coordinates much of the effort, described the new procedures. “We welcome new clients,” Avery said. “The procedure is for them to drive to Holy Cross Church at 2523 Craig’s Store Road between the hours of 8 and 9:30 a.m. on the first and third Saturday of the month.”
Avery said signs in the driveway would help people find where to go, and new clients will be asked to provide their name, phone number and the number of persons in their household. No information on income will be required. Clients will receive a box of prepackaged food, including canned vegetables, fruit, sauces, pasta, rice, cereal, milk, plus frozen meat and fresh produce.
People wanting to donate food or personal care items can leave donations in the parish hall at Emanuel church at 7955 Rockfish Gap Turnpike, where Avery periodically picks up the donations. Especially needed are personal care items and soup, she said.
Emmanuel also participates in the “Disciples’ Kitchen,” a meals program in Waynesboro run by volunteers from many local churches. The program involves seating people for a group meal, so that had to stop operating in March, but volunteers, including church pastors, have enabled the program to continue in a different form.
The program still feeds the homeless population and others without the means to prepare a meal. Lunch in the form of a bagged lunch continues to be served each Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to noon in the parking lot at Second Presbyterian Church in Waynesboro.
Volunteers also continue to support Disciples’ Kitchen breakfast meals each Saturday morning between 10:00 and 10:45 at Basic United Methodist Church.
In mid-April, Grace Grocery, the large food pantry operated by Crozet Methodist Church, resumed the delivery of food to homebound clients. For those able to travel, Grace Grocery resumed limited operation of a pick-up program with curbside service May 4 and will continue for now with two pick-ups each month, on the first and third Mondays at 4 p.m. The next pick-up date is May 18. Anyone wishing to volunteer, donate, or provide personal care items is welcome to call the church or donate through the web site. Deb Short, who has been gathering toiletries and health care items for Grace Grocery, pointed out that these essential items are not covered by any government programs, but are currently more important than ever.
The Love Your Neighbor Food Pantry Ministry of Crozet Baptist Church is also supported by the Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Mission, with additional help from Crozet Market and the Crozet Lions Club. Chuck Miller of Crozet Baptist said the ministry is designed to help families with children, and serves 26 families regularly as well as others occasionally with immediate needs. Miller, who has taught at Henley for 40 years, said families are identified by school counselors, and there’s been a huge increase in additional requests since the schools have closed.
“I could never have guessed that due to our current situation we would be serving so many more families with school-age kids who are in need,” Miller said. “Since schools have been closed, we have been constantly receiving requests from the counselors at the local schools on behalf of those families.”
The church doesn’t have a lot of cold storage space, Miller said, so they stock mostly shelf-stable ingredients, and supply food that’s appealing to children, such as snack crackers, granola bars, raisins, peanuts and juice boxes, canned vegetables, chicken, tuna, pasta in sauce and soup, dry goods like spaghetti, rice, cereal and beans, jarred applesauce, peanut butter, and jelly, and shelf-stable meals like macaroni and cheese and ramen noodles.
Anyone wishing to donate items can leave them in the plastic bin by the church office wing.
In North Garden, Trinity United Methodist Church has a food pantry, offering food from the Food Bank by way of the USDA Emergency Food Assistance Program. Clients fill out a simple form to receive assistance once a month, and will be immediately eligible to collect food. Trinity’s pantry is at 4637 Plank Road, in back of the church and upstairs. Food distribution is at 9 a.m. on the third Saturday of each month. For emergency assistance, call the church at 434-977-5585 and leave a message. Someone will return the call within 48 hours.
St. Paul’s Episcopal in Ivy distributes food monthly to an established clients list. Currently, with growing needs, they are struggling to meet their regular obligations and would welcome donations of canned goods, especially soup and beans, which can be deposited in a bin on the back porch.
Nelson County churches and businesses support the Nelson County Food Pantry, 9890 Thomas Nelson Highway. Income requirements have been waived, and the pantry is intended primarily for Nelson County residents. There is drive-up distribution on the last Saturday of month beginning at 9:30 a.m. Call Marian Dixon, 434-263-6694.
Abena Foreman-Trice of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, which supplies food to many of the local food pantries, said the agency is responding to a big jump in need. The food bank distributed roughly 400,000 more pounds of food in March then they did in March, 2019, she said, and the demand is still growing.
Like other non-profits, the food bank is looking for low-risk volunteers to replace older volunteers who previously helped sort food and pack boxes in the warehouses. Prospective volunteers who are healthy and low risk can sign up at www.brafb.org/volunteer/.
For those unsure of where to find food in their area, the food bank has a listing at: www.brafb.org/find-help/pantry-locator/.