Holiday Fund aids foodbank

HAMPTON — One dollar equals four meals. So $100, then, buys 400 meals – and the math holds up no matter what the starting point.

That's what the Foodbank of the Virginia Peninsula can do: take the amount someone might spend on a single soda and, with bulk purchases and discounts, turn it into bags of canned meats, produce, peanut butter, soups, rice, cereal and more for a growing number of hungry children, adults and seniors.


This year, that mission is a bit harder. The Hampton-based organization has received fewer donations. That's because of a still-struggling economy and the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey, where some people have redirected money they have set aside for charitable giving.

So donations from the Daily Press Holiday Fund have been particularly important, says Steve Barth, the Foodbank's chief operating officer and interim chief executive.


The annual fundraising drive, now in its 84th year, serves needy children and families of all cultures and faiths. Last year, a total of $116,600 went to provide basics such as food, shelter and clothing, along with special extras such as toys for kids.

At the Foodbank, one of many local nonprofit organizations to benefit from the Daily Press Holiday Fun, every dollar has gone to purchase food items for the 245 local agencies that feed the hungry, as well as for individuals who walk in looking for help, Barth said.

"We're not just seeing the very poor – the people you might see begging at the side of the road," he says. "We're helping the working poor and children and older people who are facing a choice between eating and paying their electric bill."

That might mean not only the child sitting next to yours in class, but the teacher as well, says James Wright, pastor of Perfecting Saints Church & Ministries in Hampton, one of the agencies that distributes donated foods. More than 75 families regularly turn out at the church's Wednesday afternoon bread distribution, sometimes lining up four hours before the food arrives.


"I've see people of all hues and colors, and with all kinds of jobs and situations," Wright says. "I've had people tell me this is the difference in being able to buy medicine they need. I've seen people cry because they're so grateful."

The Foodbank serves the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson and Williamsburg and the counties of Gloucester, James City, Mathews, Surry and York. About 13 percent of its service population – nearly 72,000 people – is defined as "food insecure," or at risk of not getting enough to eat, according to the agency.

People who rely on the Foodbank include the unemployed, working poor, homeless, mentally ill, elderly, disabled, single parents and victims of domestic violence. All money donated to the organization stays in the Hampton Roads community and funds a variety of programs, from after-school snacks and weekend meals for schoolchildren to nutrition and self-sufficiency training for low-income adults.

In the most recent fiscal year, the Foodbank supplied 9.7 million pounds of food; each meal is about 1.2 pounds, Barth said. The organization also stocks basic cleaning products such as laundry detergent, paper towels and bathroom and kitchen disinfectants.

The holiday season is when the Foodbank tries to build supplies that keep programs running year-round. Top items on its wish list include canned meats, fruits and vegetables, beans, pasta, boxed meals, instant potatoes, applesauce, peanut butter and grains such as cereal, rice and breakfast bars.

"We need to get it in now, when people are thinking more about giving," Barth says. "We feed people 365 days a year – people get hungry 365 days a year, not just on Thanksgiving."

Alison Johnson is a freelance writer based in York County.

Make a donation


To donate to the Daily Press Holiday Fund, complete the form send checks payable to PCFVA for DPHF (Peninsula Community Foundation of Virginia for the Daily Press Holiday Fund) and mail to 11742 Jefferson Ave., Suite 350, Newport News 23606. You may also charge your donation by phone at 757-247-4862 between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, or online at