Feed More, Puritan Cleaners partner to provide 100,000 meals to hungry Virginians

Posted at 6:20 PM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 18:20:51-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- In a world where hunger affects 44 million people in the United States, according to Feeding America, and one in nine people in Central Virginia, organizations like Feed More are stepping up to make a difference as hunger's grip tightens.

CBS 6 news anchor GeNienne Samuels and photojournalist Cole Pearson got a behind-the-scenes look into the operations to meet a few of the dedicated volunteers who dole out a heaping helping of hospitality, healthy food, and hope.

On Feed More's Rhoadmiller Street campus in Richmond, volunteers scrambled around bagging food and sorting meals into coolers and bags. At first, it looked like chaos.

But it was actually a well-oiled, organized operation.

At this location, some 200-plus volunteers were spinning an intricate web of moving parts to sustain Feed More’s mission. One of those volunteers is Allie Page of Richmond, a retired Postal Service worker.

“I'll pump up Feed More because it's really a good place to volunteer,” Allie said. “I've been doing it for 13 years, so it's certainly a rewardable thing to do.”  

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Allie Page

Twice a week, rain or shine, you’ll find the retired Postal Service worker not sorting mail, but instead sorting meals for the Meals on Wheels program.

So, what's on the menu?

“Today we have, and it's labeled so the clients know what it's in there, but it's a chicken pot pie. It's a really nice combination there with beets and green beans," Allie said.

Allie, along with the other volunteers at Feed More, have become the unsung and often invisible hungry man’s heroes day after day, week after week.

This group packs up multi-course, dietitian-approved meals to be delivered to homebound seniors.

Meals on Wheels is just one of many Feed More programs.

Through volunteers’ hands, hope also travels to food pantries, children’s lunch boxes, and school markets across Central Virginia.

Made from scratch meals are prepared in the Community Kitchen - but it all starts in the Feed More warehouse, a bustling nexus of hope.

There, food donations find purpose as they are sorted, stacked, and inspected in the 92,000-square-foot depot.

Every hard-working hand throughout the Rhoadmiller campus helps to reduce the number of missing meals from tables every day.

Feed More serves 29 counties and five cities in Central Virginia.

In 2023, Feed More distributed 3,000 meals a day, which equated to 35 million pounds of food resulting in 30 million meals.

However, the need is growing but hiding in plain sight.

“One in nine people here in central Virginia are food insecure,” said Christy Dalton, Feed More’s Community Manager. "Meaning they don't know where their next meal is coming from. Or at some point in the month, they're choosing to have to make a choice between buying food and paying their rent or getting medicines.”

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Christy Dalton

This is a game of “this or that” that no one should be forced to play. Unfortunately, Virginia’s hunger emergency is growing.

“Hunger is everywhere, and it's oftentimes hidden right where you can see it. People are hungry that you might not think are hungry. The people that we're helping are episodic. So they've typically had a life experience that's made money tight for them," Dalton said.

"They were already living paycheck to paycheck. Maybe they had a medical emergency, maybe their car broke down, maybe they lost their job, and they're struggling for a few months. So they use our services to be able to have food until they can get back on their feet.” 

Over the last two years, Feed More has seen a 22% increase in need at its partner pantries, and neighborhoods are back to pandemic-level requests for food assistance.

“While we know that we're getting more food out than we have in the past, we know the need is still there. We could not do what we do without our volunteers," Dalton said. "Having volunteers here to do that is the reason that we can do what we do at such a great economy of scale because they are labor that we would otherwise have to pay for."

A need that could not ever be met without the Allie's of the world. The cadre of volunteers is a testament to the collective effort that pays dividends far beyond the number of meals served.

“You know you're helping people. All the benefits out there of seeing these people and Doing what you're doing for them outweigh any cost it's going to cost you to volunteer. It's just good," Allie said.

Volunteers are the heartbeat of Feed More's operation - and you can help out too!

Puritan Cleaners is partnering with Feed More to collect 100,000 meals to feed our community. With just a $5 donation - you can feed up to 20 people.

If you want to help out with Puritan's mission - you can drop off donations at any of their locations throughout our area.

This will help Feed More stock up for summer - when the need for food increases. Their most needed items include canned goods and shelf-stable proteins.

Puritan's 100,000 meals campaign runs through Sunday.

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