By JESSICA WETZLER
Daily News-Record 6/10/20
For the last two months, the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank has been working to provide food boxes for individuals in need during the COVID- 19 pandemic, and a hefty grant from Truist Financial Corp. will allow it to serve more people.
As part of its national philanthropic pledge to support basic needs, medical supplies and financial hardship relief, the Truist Financial Corp. announced Tuesday that it would commit to an additional $25 million in support to those in need, raising the total to $50 million.
The additional funding is aimed at underserved community segments, providing resources for small businesses and essential technology services to areas with limited access, according to a news release. To support the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, Truist awarded the nonprofit organization a $100,000 grant.
“Food insecurity has emerged as an even greater issue in our communities fighting the pandemic, particularly among our elderly neighbors,” said Chris Ellis, Harrisonburg market president for Truist. “We’re confident in the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank’s ability to provide critical meals and services to the Harrisonburg and surrounding communities to help those who need it most.”
Ellis said Truist was honored to be able to do its part in helping communities solve serious challenges.
“I am extremely proud of my Truist teammates,” Ellis said in a press release. “Their hard work allowed us to react quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic and fund an essential community need in the Blue Ridge area.”
Since the COVID- 19 pandemic started, the food bank had to make more than $1.5 million in expenses, with most of the spending related to food.
“The purchase of food has been our largest expense since the start of the crisis,” Michael McKee, CEO of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, said in a press release.
In April, the food bank began working with three Shenandoah Valley health care groups to provide food boxes to individuals who were hospitalized or in self-isolation due to COVID-19 and were financially vulnerable during the pandemic.
If a patient being treated for COVID-19 was in need of food, the food bank would offer a free box filled with fresh produce
and proteins. To make the donation possible, Abena Foreman-Trice, media and community relations manager for BRAFB, said the organization used funds from a grant awarded by Sentara Healthcare and Optima Health to the Federation of Virginia Food Banks.
The federation received $1 million in February 2019 in an effort to improve access to nutritious food through direct-service programs and partnerships across the commonwealth. Foreman- Trice said the goal of the grant was to support needs stemming from Medicaid expansion and to address social factors affecting the health and well-being of low-income Virginians.
With the grant from Truist, Foreman-Trice said it will help address hunger during the COVID- 19 pandemic, including responding to food assistance needs for the those who are unemployed and may be in need.
McKee said he was grateful for the support of the food bank, adding that he was also grateful for the families seeking help.
“For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve ever relied upon a food bank or food pantry,” he said.
Foreman-Trice said those in need of food could also use their nearest food bank partner food pantry for assistance. A food bank can be found by using the locator tool www.brafb.org/findhelp.