Some believe in the benefits to the soul of food and drink, especially when shared and experienced with others. But, more than a spiritual connection, sharing the same food and drink with others, in fact, builds trust and community, says social scientist, Shankar Vedantam, of NPR’s Hidden Brain series. The Institute focuses grant dollars on neighbors sharing food and drink with others, as a way of not only bringing neighbors together, but to further long-term Ocean View relationships.
Such as those relationships formed at the quarterly East Beach Forum. Open to the public, free of charge, on a Sunday afternoon at the Bay Front Club in the East Beach neighborhood, neighbors listen to diverse presentations from other neighbors: a cardiologist on heart health, a kayaker on bay dolphins' curious behavior. Food and drink are subsidized by a small grant from the Institute.
Every year, one of the Institute’s largest grants is awarded to The Storehouse Ministry, which purchases groceries and distributes food baskets free-of-charge from a Food Pantry every Wednesday and Friday from 11:30 am to 1 pm. The Storehouse serves more than 300 each month, representing 80-100 families surrounding Pleasant Avenue. Like the East Beach Forum, neighbors share food, drink and update each other. "We try to make our food distribution people friendly and COVID-19 safe, a social occasion to meet and greet neighbors,” says Pastor Rodney Hammonds. "We thank God that we have not had one single case of COVID-19 at our facility."
“My wife, Aretha, and I have seen this community transform from one of the most destitute, crime-infested areas of Norfolk,” Pastor Rodney notes, while also crediting volunteer neighbors from across Ocean View who support a small Storehouse staff of seven.
Most who come to the pantry on Pleasant Avenue are within walking or driving distance from 21st Bay Street to First View Street. They hear about the pantry through word-of-mouth, “with new families joining each week. Each basket holds enough food for households to have meals with plenty of leftovers,” Pastor Rodney says.
The neighborhood is a food desert, he adds, short on whole food providers, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. Instead, Pastor Rodney notes, the neighborhood surrounding Pleasant Avenue only offers “quickie marts in strip malls loaded with processed sugar and fat laden foods” within walking distance.
“We continue to plan how to other expand our outreach to more of Ocean View and serve an even larger community,” Pastor Rodney said.
Ocean View neighbors volunteer at The Storehouse Ministry's Food Pantry twice-a-week.