A new food bank is helping feed the hungry across Henrico County: 'I just really want to feed people'

National Food Bank Day falls on the first Friday in September
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Posted at 5:55 PM, Sep 01, 2023

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The term "food insecurity" has some misnomers for those not actively engaged in the fight against hunger.

On National Food Bank Day, a relatively new food bank serving Henrico residents showed how their operations serve a big need that is hidden from many in the community.

Weekly, Jen Miller drops off bags of pantry staples at houses all across the county.

"I just really want to feed people. It’s just been who I am for a really long time," said Miller, who volunteers with the Henrico Community Food Bank. “It’s very humbling to get that broadened perspective. We deliver to all neighborhoods in Henrico County, so your neighbor on your street might be experiencing a little bit of employment difference, transition between roles, and just need that extra helping hand.”

Formed just two years ago, the Henrico Community Food Bank makes mobile deliveries to those in need. Founder Sudeshna Das-Menezes said hunger is a hidden secret in the county.

“There’s no neighborhood in Henrico, quite honestly, that we haven’t touched," Das-Menezes said. "As part of the community, you have the power to give, build something. Or you might be in need of some kind of assistance but it’s a symbiosis of both of those that make a difference.”

Since their inception and the beginning of the deliveries last year, the Henrico Community Food Bank is already serving more than 300 families each month and topped 1,000 individuals served last month.

“Food, clothing, and shelter are the basics. To me, they’re almost basic human rights that everyone has," Das-Menezes said. “We are there to help when somebody needs that support for a month, two months, six months, or maybe on a more long-term basis because honestly, who are we to judge circumstances, right?”

When there is much need in the community, keeping a food bank of any size running requires volunteers, funding, and the crux of the operation: food. Shelves can become bare quickly when serving that many families, even with the help of community partners and volunteers, Das-Menezes said.

"Help from the community is absolutely paramount for us," she said.

Funding support is critical to operations, but volunteers are also relied upon to pack bags and deliver them. They also gather food from drives year-round, and even recently took in a food donation from someone who put a drive on at their birthday party.

“It’s really the bigger picture of humanity that we can help each other. What seems like a small thing to me could be a really big thing to someone else," Miller said.

An estimated 8 percent of Virginians, or more than 700,000 people, do not know where their next meal is coming from. That means food banks like the Henrico Community Food Bank fill a tremendously meaningful gap for many of your neighbors.

“If we don’t look at it community by community, we’ll never get any closer to there being a solution to food insecurity that exists pretty much in every neighborhood, on every street. Like I said, it might just be one of us one day, and we’d never know unless we were in that same position," Das-Menezes said.

For more information on donations, food drives, and volunteering, you can visit the Henrico Community Food Bank's website.

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