Tucked away in Virginia’s Roanoke Valley, in neighboring Salem, there’s a warehouse. If you’re ever in the area, you should go there sometime. Because it’s not just any warehouse. This warehouse supplies food to over 330 feeding programs across 26 counties and 9 cities. It’s full of canned and nonperishable foods, fresh fruit and vegetables, and miscellaneous grocery items. There’s even frozen meat. That’s because when grocery chains receive misprinted labels or cans with small dents from retailers, they turn to Feeding America Southwest Virginia to reduce waste and help the community.
It’s a ton of food. Actually, a literal “ton” doesn’t come anywhere close to its figurative meaning. That’s because FASWVA’s giant, yellow warehouse distributes 21 million pounds of food per year.
“The number one thing we hear people say is, ‘I had no idea,’ ” said Anna Goltz, FASWVA’s Annual Fund & Corporate Relations Officer. “Once you see the warehouse, once you see the map of the territory we serve, it’s very surprising to people.”
The fight against food insecurity — when individuals don’t have access to enough nutritious food to lead healthy lives — wasn’t always this way. Gleaning fields after harvest is an ancient process, but in the modern day, food is more likely to be wasted when retailers and manufacturers throw away products with branding blemishes. Feeding America Southwest Virginia, a member affiliate of the national Feeding America network of food banks, works with grocers, restaurants, and manufacturers to rescue food waste and ensure food safety before distributing food throughout a local network of partners.
FASWVA’s spokeswoman Amanda Allen emphasized the importance of a centralized, coordinated effort to stock Southwest Virginia’s food pantries and soup kitchens.
“I can sit in my office in Salem, and help get food in transit to Danville, [Virginia], and that’s what makes a big difference.”
But food can’t magically move itself across 26 counties. It takes forklifts to move the food crates and palettes; refrigerated trucks to move them across highways; fuel to move said trucks.
“That’s what we do. We move food,” Goltz said. “We’re a nonprofit, but we almost operate like a trucking company.”
This is logistics. This is how FASWVA generates more impact than imaginable. Refrigerated trucks might not be the image that first comes to mind when thinking about donating to feed the hungry. But that’s exactly the kind of equipment a food bank needs to get the job done on a massive scale.
“Whenever people give charitable donations online, I think they’ve been more educated on what to look for. They now know to make sure everything is safe and legitimate.”
— Amanda Allen, FASWVA spokeswoman
The nonprofit often cites that just $1 can provide seven meals for those in need. And while FASWVA does receive reimbursements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for limited feeding programs, the majority of its efforts are only possible by private support.