By KATHLEEN SHAW
Daily News-Record 2/3/21
February is often associated with extravagant appetizer trays, face paint and love notes. But for one Harrisonburg business, the shortest month of the year only means one thing.
It’s time for the Souper Bowl February Food Drive.
Brothers Craft Brewing on North Main Street is organizing its fifth annual food drive benefiting Blue Ridge Area Food Bank this month. The partnership with the Verona- based nonprofit began in 2017 and has become a hallmark of the season at the brewery along with the Cask for a Cause fundraiser for the food bank.
Through the month of February, donations will be accepted in the collection box during taproom hours. Low sodium, low sugar and whole grain items are especially sought after. A list of most needed items is available at www.brotherscraftbrewing.com/event/souper-bowl-february-food-drive/. On Feb. 19 from 1 to 10 p.m., the brewery will open a cask infusion, and sales of each pint and grunt will go directly to the food bank.
Taproom manager Josh Harold said the food bank is in its 40th year of serving the community, and the brewery hopes to celebrate the partnership by collecting approximately 100 pounds of food and funds equivalent to at least 700 meals.
“A big piece of this puzzle that I didn’t realize, and I doubt that the public does either, is that monetary donations go a lot further than physical donations,” Harold said in an email.
He said the food bank can provide nearly four meals for every dollar raised, and it established a virtual donation platform at www.brafb.org/brothers/.
Harrisonburg and Rockingham County fall within the food bank’s Shenandoah Valley Area Branch. According to the food bank’s 2019-2020 annual report, the nonprofit provided 23.2 million meals and 27.8 million pounds of food last year.
To meet the growing need during the pandemic, the food bank also more than doubled its food purchases. From March to December, the food bank reportedly bought 5.6 million pounds of food compared to the 2 million pounds it purchased in the same period in 2019.
The Little Grill Collective, a neighboring business of Brothers, typically hosts several fundraising events but put the philanthropy on pause during the pandemic. Part-owner Molly Delaney said she frequents the Cask for a Cause events and loves Brothers Craft Brewing’s infusion of fundraising and fun.
“They’re so wonderful. I really enjoy their philanthropy and that they’re able to integrate it into their business,” she said. “Especially in these times, I’m glad they are continuing their Souper Bowl.”
James Madison University’s Research and Scholarship Office is also hosting a winter food drive for the food bank this month. For 12 years, JMU has hosted a food drive around Thanksgiving to collect physical and monetary donations, but this year’s event was postponed to late winter due to the pandemic.
Ben Delp, director of research development and promotions, is hosting the drive and said he’s excited to hear more local businesses are getting involved to help the food bank.
“I really do think it kind of produces this collective swell where more people want to get involved, and you see your effort grow exponentially,” Delp said. “The need is frightening, quite frankly.”
According to the food bank’s fact sheet for the Valley, 33,290 individuals are served each month.
JMU began accepting items on Jan. 25 and will continue collecting donations until Friday. Physical items can be dropped off at the ISAT/CS Building and Foundation Hall lobbies or the third floor of the Engineering Geosciences Building. Financial contributions can be made at www.brafb.org/jmu2021winterdrive/.