Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Helping Hands Food Drive

Girl Scout Brownie Troop 174 from Virginia Beach on a tour
of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia with Julie Braley,
marketing and business relations director with the food bank.
Community service has been a cornerstone of Girl Scouting since Juliette Gordon Low first founded the organization over 100 years ago. During the month of April, local Girl Scouts are making a difference in the community through the Helping Hands Food Drive, an annual community service project to help stock area food banks and food pantries. On Saturday, April 5, Girl Scouts had the opportunity to take a tour of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia in Norfolk to learn about how food is collected and distributed, hear about hunger statistics in the community and find out ways that they can help.

On the tour, Girl Scouts visited the different functional areas of the food bank, including where volunteers sort food and check expiration dates, where food is delivered, stored and distributed and where partner agencies can come “shop” and choose items to stock their pantries. They also learned about the programs run by the food bank, including the Backpack Program that distributes food through schools to children who are food insecure and do not always know where their next meal will come from and the Mobile Pantry that delivers food to people who cannot travel to a food pantry.

During the tours, Debbie Mergi, corporate outreach manager with the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia, pointed out the many empty shelves inside the food bank warehouse. She talked about how hunger is on everybody’s mind during the holidays, but they need donations all year long, especially as summer nears and children will not have access to meals at school.

“Your food drive is so important because it reminds people that there are going to be children without food this summer,” Mergi told the Girl Scouts.

Members of Girl Scout Troop 843 inside the sorting room at the
Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia during a tour of the facility on April 5.

Across the Commonwealth of Virginia, 12.7 percent of the population is food insecure. That means that over 912,000 people in the Commonwealth do not know from where their next meal will come. In North Carolina, 19.3 percent of people are food insecure. These percentages are even higher when looking just at children (16.5 percent in Virginia and 27.3 percent in North Carolina), and food insecurity among children can affect their cognitive development and school performance. Last year, the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia served 14.2 million meals, helping almost 400,000 people who struggle with hunger in the community.

Throughout the month of April, Girl Scouts will be collecting food in a variety of ways, from placing collection boxes at schools and churches to asking their friends, family members and neighbors to donate food items. On Saturday, April 26, from 9 a.m. to noon, Girl Scouts and the public can drop off donations at locations found here.

View a shopping list of most needed items by the food banks here.