HAYMARKET, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - A food pantry in Northern Virginia is getting creative. So creative, in fact, that while they are still serving their community, they’re no longer serving food.
After all, the old way of doing business just wasn’t working for the Haymarket Regional Food Pantry in Prince William County. Food donations were slowing. Volunteers stopped coming in. They had to shut down for a week, and even just physically picking up what food they could get was beginning to be a problem.
“We actually counted that it took 12 touches to get the food off the grocery store shelf, into the pantry, and out to the person’s trunk, which we just all of the sudden started feeling as though that was not a safe situation to have,” explained Executive Director Eileen Smith.
So now – as previously reported by WTOP, the food pantry is giving out $100 grocery store gift cards instead.
“I feel awesome about doing this. I’m so happy we can do it, makes me happy,” an emotional Smith said Tuesday afternoon. As she knows better than most, the need is there. In normal times, Haymarket Regional Food Pantry feeds about 25,000 people per year, mostly in Gainesville, Haymarket, Bristow, and Manassas, Smith said, adding that there’s now more demand than ever.
“Thank God for everything they doing for us,” said Deloris Yates, one of the dozens of people who picked up a gift card Tuesday evening.
Smith said that largely because of online donations, they’re now able to give each family one gift card per week. Families also get a loaf of bread from Great Harvest Bread Company, a local business that’s now supplying loaves to six different area food banks.
“The members of our community are serving us, they’re keeping us in business, and then we’re turning around and supplying to the food banks. It’s kind of a two birds, one stone kind of situation,” baker Pablo Teodoro explained.
Add it all up and it’s enough to help the people who come to the food pantry survive, both old customers and new.
“In the last couple weeks we’ve seen, 50 percent of people, we’ve never seen them before,” Smith said. “So we need to do this, we need to be here.”