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The Fight Against Famine

Spotlighting the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank

September 2023

Volunteers pack food boxes for seniors. Photos courtesy of Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.

by Laura Emery, Staff Writer

Hunger is unacceptable — that’s the core belief behind everything the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank does. Founded in 1981 in Staunton, Va., the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank is the largest organization of its kind in western and central Virginia. Within the organization’s first year, it distributed 233,000 pounds of food to people facing hunger through 202 member agencies in 18 counties along the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Since then, the Food Bank has expanded and grown. It  relocated to a new facility in Verona, Va., which now serves  as the organization’s headquarters. There were three other branches established between 1982 and 1985: Charlottesville, Winchester and Lynchburg.

The Food Bank now proudly serves 25 counties and eight cities — covering over 12,000 square miles — on either side of the Blue Ridge. It provides nutritious food to approximately 110,000 people annually through a network of over 400 community partners and programs. These partners include food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens and program sites like schools, community centers and healthcare clinics.

Les Sinclair, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank’s communications and PR manager, says, “We are a partner food bank with Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the U.S. Their latest research shows that 9 out of 10 high food insecurity counties are rural. This aligns with the majority of our service area. We serve 10 of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative’s service counties: Albemarle, Amherst, Appomattox, Augusta, Buckingham, Campbell, Fluvanna, Greene, Nelson and Orange.”

September is Hunger Action Month across the nation. Sinclair explains that Hunger Action Month is an important opportunity for the Food Bank to raise awareness of hunger in the community. According to the Food Bank’s website, the latest data reveals that 1-in-12 people living in the Blue Ridge area experience hunger, including 1-in-12 children.

Sinclair explains that the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank website is a great resource. “If someone needs food assistance, we have a Food Finder tool to help locate a food pantry nearby. If they have the means to do so and wish to donate, they can do that on our website as well.”

Between July 2021 and June 2022, the Food Bank estimates it provided — with the help of generous donors and hardworking partners and volunteers — 20.8 million meals to those in need. That’s about 7.2 million pounds of produce and 24.9 million pounds of food distributed. These numbers speak volumes about the impactful work being done at Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to deliver food — and hope.

“It all starts with food,” Sinclair says. “Our mission is to make sure everyone has enough to eat. We believe that it all starts with good, nourishing food — and we want to help make sure that the people who need it get it.”

For more, visit brafb.org.