SIRET, Romania -- One month into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the war-torn country is about to receive its one-millionth pound of food from a non-profit based in Hampton Roads.
Founder and CEO Gary LeBlanc said in a Thursday Zoom call that the organization's warehouse is fully up-and-running in Romania, just outside the country's border with Ukraine. From there, crews then load food and supplies into trucks and bring them to distribution sites in the deepest parts of the country, including those currently under attack.
"We have food going all the way into Kharkiv and Sumy and Kyiv," he said. "By the end of this week, we'll have moved a million pounds of food into Ukraine."
LeBlanc says efforts by Ukrainian fighters to take territories back from the Russian military this week have opened up holes in besieged areas, like Sumy, so his workers can get deliveries to people who have been in hiding for weeks.
"The little kid that's been in a subway station for three weeks — They give him an orange and he just cries," LeBlanc says of what he and his volunteers are seeing.
LeBlanc said he has been able to source food and products from throughout Europe but prices are continue to go up and that's the biggest hurdle Mercy Chefs is having to overcome right now.
"The prices on some things have gone up almost 60 percent in the four weeks that we've been in-country," said LeBlanc.
The biggest need from people at home, he says, is donations to help continue funding efforts during the ongoing war and after when refugees have to be resettled.
Click HERE for the Mercy Chefs Donation page.