By Carol Vaughn
Rep. Elaine Luria visited the Eastern Shore last week to learn how the Foodbank and school systems are addressing food insecurity during the coronavirus outbreak.
Luria also gave an update about federal actions in response to the outbreak, including Congress’ passage of an initial $8.2 billion package.
Additional federal legislation is pending.
“I understand the strain on the community to people who don’t have the necessary resources. The Foodbank is incredibly important in times like this, as are the school lunches for the students who rely on that for breakfast and lunch,” she said.
“We know that the schools have closed … I understand the challenges that causes for parents of young children… But the reason schools have closed, specifically, is, although children don’t show a lot of symptoms from this … they are major carriers,” Luria said.
“This is definitely something that impacts everyone in the country, in the Commonwealth, and in our community — so, we are all going to have to take action to help prevent the spread,” she said, urging everyone to practice social distancing, hand washing, and other preventive measures.
The Foodbank has changed its distribution model because of the virus.
“We are changing all of our distribution models to a mobile model,” said Charmin Horton, Eastern Shore Branch Manager.
“Where ordinarily folks would come in and congregate, and we’d ask them questions … We are going to try to change all of that to a mobile (model), where they would just pull up, we’d hand them their food, do what we have to do, and send them on their way,” she said.
The Virginia Department of Consumer Services is allowing the agency to not require a signature on clients’ self-declarations of income, as is usual.
“That way, there is not touching of paperwork,” Horton said.
The Foodbank also is adding additional distribution sites, including Northampton High School and the Taylor and Fulton facility in Mappsville.
The Foodbank also is working to continue distribution of fresh produce to families by teaming up with the schools’ food distribution sites.
“We are delighted to be partnering with the Foodbank. We are going to have it right on our campus, so when our parents come up, they can get the lunches delivered by the school system; … they can pick up their lunches; we have learning packets that provide some continuity of education for those that do not have internet access; and then, they will pull on down our loop and the Foodbank will be there with their foodstuffs,” said Northampton County School Superintendent Eddie Lawrence.
Lawrence said the school meal program also is open to homeschool and private school students, and the age for eligibility has been extended from age 1 through any enrolled student.
In Accomack County, enrollment for school lunches has risen, according to School Superintendent Chris Holland.
“Kids need to eat,” he said.
The Accomack school district began offering free breakfast and lunch to all school-age children starting March 16. Breakfasts and lunches will be offered daily, Monday through Thursday from 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm.
Distribution sites include: Chincoteague Elementary School, Arcadia High School, Kegotank Elementary School, Metompkin Elementary School, Tangier Combined School, Accawmacke Elementary School, Pungoteague Elementary School and Nandua Middle School.
Any student may pick up a meal from any of the locations.
Meals are served in a drive-up style at the cafeteria entrance at each school.
Children must be present and meals must be consumed off-site.
U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine sent a letter March 19 to the administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, urging swift approval of Virginia’s request to operate a Disaster Household Distribution Program.
“The designation would allow food banks to distribute USDA food directly to Virginia’s neediest families while limiting the interactions between food bank staff, volunteers, and recipients during the coronavirus outbreak,” according to a press release from the senators.
The designation also would eliminate burdensome paperwork requirements for participants.
Foodbank food distribution locations and times:
Tuesday, from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Mobile Pantry,
Foodbank of the Eastern Shore,
24530 Coastal Blvd., Tasley
Tuesday, from 10 a.m. to noon Mobile Pantry, Northampton High School , 16041 Courthouse Road, Eastville
Thursday, from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Mobile Pantry , Foodbank of the Eastern Shore , 24530 Coastal Blvd., Tasley
Friday, 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Mobile Pantry, Taylor and Fulton Packing, Route 13, Mappsville
Financial donations to the Foodbank are needed, and can be made online at: https://fundraise.foodbankonline.org/give/276845/#!/donation/checkout
The mailing address is: P.O. Box 518, Onley, VA 23418.
The Foodbank also is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FoodbankSEVA/
Additionally, the Foodbank has opened food donation drop-off sites on the Shore, aimed at practicing safe social distancing and protecting the health and wellbeing of staff and individuals donating food. Personal hygiene items are needed as well.
Donation drop-off locations and times are:
Eastern Shore Family YMCA: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon
26164 Lankford Hwy., Onley
Town of Cape Charles Firehouse: Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 515 Mason Ave., Cape Charles