Jane Colony Mills, executive director of Loaves & Fishes tells us about this important community partner that plays a critical role in fighting food insecurity in our community. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, one in eight people struggle with hunger. More than 17% of Charlottesville residents must choose between paying for housing, utilities, transportation, medicine – or food to feed their family. Loaves & Fishes distributes free food to help low-income residents of Charlottesville and Albemarle, Augusta, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson, and Orange counties feed their families. With more than $1.7M in food donated through the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank (approximately one-third of the food volume for the Thomas Jefferson (Charlottesville) branch) and donations from many local grocers, farmers, processors, and food drives, Loaves & Fishes gave food to 59,082 people in 2017. Piedmont Housing Alliance clients are some of these customers, and the Loaves & Fishes food assistance has made a significant impact on their ability to make ends meet and stabilize their household budget.
Charlottesville’s Loaves & Fishes food pantry provides groceries at no cost to low-income families within and around the Charlottesville community. What we are able to do here is pretty extraordinary – because we have a 5,600 square foot warehouse and a 24-ft. box truck that we own, four full-time and three part-time staff, thousands of volunteers, and supporters who give to support our operations each year, Loaves & Fishes is able to pick up, store, and distribute thousands of pounds of food each week to people in our community who struggle to feed their families. We’re giving out an average of 40 pounds of food per person in a household each time they visit, and it’s really nice food – fresh bread and produce, frozen meat, and pastries which supplement the low-sodium and sugar-canned or shelf-stable products that come to us through the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank from the USDA via The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Five days each week, we pick up donations from Wegmans, Kroger at Rio Hill, and Food Lion on Pantops, plus we pick up from Giant three days a week and two days a week from Sam’s and Costco. People who visit here are usually incredibly grateful for what they get and a bit overwhelmed because they are able to take so much food.