Since before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and growing food insecurity, the Institute has been supporting The Storehouse Ministry's food pantry on Pleasant Avenue year-over-year. But for 2021-2022, the Institute sought to help expand philanthropic access to free food -- from walk-in food pantries to home delivery to outreach to Ocean View homeless.
According to Feeding America, the projected overall rate of Norfolk food insecurity – not having enough money to buy or access quality, nutritional food each week – is expected to rise above 19.7% of Norfolk residents due to COVID-19.
Many of these Ocean View residents who come to The Storehouse Ministry are within walking or driving distance from 21st Bay Street to First View Street. They hear about food distribution every Wednesday and Friday from 11:30 am to 1 pm through word-of-mouth, with new families joining each week.
The Storehouse has remained open for free groceries in Ocean View since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic -- without one single case of COVID infection -- serving as many as 40-70 households per week or approximately 150-300 individuals in total depending on the time of the month.
A Volunteer Day/Seminar each third Wednesday of the month, supported by the Institute, also offers training methods to break the cycle of hopelessness and poverty by encouraging recipients to volunteer at the Storehouse.
"We believe in transitioning the homeless, the unemployed, the working poor families and individuals, to become self-sustaining, prosperous, and productive," Pastor Rodney notes. "The program is specifically designed to give all recipients of the Storehouse an opportunity to serve or give back, completing tasks that assist in the running of the Storehouse. And this program has been a huge success!"
Ocean View residents also have come to rely on calling Jonathan Cares, a Norfolk nonprofit managing home delivery of food to seniors, families and homeless. The Institute's funding will help expand the number of those served to 250 a month from its current 130. In addition to purchasing food items, funds will go to purchase supplies, such as cambros to transport hot or cold foods, or gas for cars to pick up and deliver food from local partner organizations.
"We hope to erase the stigma behind hunger and food insecurity," says Clifton Wright, director of Jonathan Cares. "Those uncomfortable during COVID to stand and wait in a food line can now have a safe and more dignified way to receive free food."
A community garden adjacent The Storehouse Ministry on Pleasant Avenue also has been available to Ocean View neighbors for years to grow their own vegetables, herbs or spices for home cooking of healthy family meals. But the garden's hydroponic irrigation system has aged and broken during the last four years. An Institute grant to East Ocean View Civic League will help volunteers rebuild irrigation in the spring of 2022, restoring the garden for more to use it.
Institute funding to help to rebuild a 1950s-era kitchen, beginning with a new commercial grade refrigerator and freezer, also will help expand Ocean View community outreach with hot meals from Miles Memorial United Methodist Church on Granby Avenue.
"Many of our population are homeless who suffer from PTSD and other forms of disabling illnesses. And a hot meal is what draws people to us," says Sue Barlow, co-chair of Miles' Outreach and Mission Team. "Our goal is to lovingly accept people as they are every time they visit Miles. Once they feel secure, they take advantage of our other services and resources to assist them with positive change."
Military families are not immune from food insecurity during COVID, ABC News recently reported. So, the Institute also will be supporting a Patriot's Pantry emergency food closet through 2022 at the Armed Services YMCA of Hampton Roads in Virginia Beach.
"We are seeing an uptick in the number of families accessing our pantry from ranks E5 and below and expect to serve over 1000 in 2021," says Debbie Brinkley, grants manager. "83,000 military members and their 96,000 dependents are based in Hampton Roads. And food insecurity among our military kids can affect academic achievement, behavioral and development outcomes."
The Institute's support of Patriot's Pantry will benefit 39% of those active duty military and dependents in Norfolk, many who call the Ocean View area home.