I recently made a visit to a church in Roanoke City that is partnering with us as a summer food service site where they serve a lunch two days a week to 40 - 60 children. It was a great experience and it was fantastic to see lots of children being served in that community! While there, I had the chance to speak with the pastor of the church. I asked him about the area and how the site has been doing in providing meals to children; essentially "Is the program making an impact?"
His first words were very positive and he said that the church has been blessed to be able to partner with Feeding America Southwest Virginia in feeding children. He said that the majority of the children in the area were food insecure and that the lunch would be the only meal that some of the children would get for the day. The meals are truly making a difference in the children's lives.
He continued, saying that the area is struggling and that there is an extreme lack of stability. His definition of stable community is where there are strong family and home foundations - but this was not the case. The pastor said that there is a high turnover of families in the area...many move in and the rent is too high then they soon realize that they can't afford it. Incarceration is also a large factor. He said it separates families and creates splinters in the community. He talked more on these subjects and listed more factors that negatively affect the area, but he soon transitioned to a story.
He began with saying that many families move in from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and northern Virginia. He met one particular family on a Sunday morning at church and he said the story that they shared with him broke his heart. It was a husband and wife who both had great jobs and they were able to support their family of four children. Their lives were soon flipped upside down when they both lost their jobs. They no longer had enough money to pay the bills, their mortgage, or buy enough food and other necessities.
The couple made the decision to sell their house and most of their belongings then relocate to the Roanoke area in search of work and opportunities. Their trip took two weeks and the family of six lived out of the car for the entire trip. Many times they had to stop to ask for help as they needed food, gas, and showers. When they reached Roanoke they came to the church for help and the pastor was more than willing to assist. He said that his congregation really saved this family and that the food provided through the Summer Food Service Program was an important aspect in serving the parents' children. Support and stability for families is crucial in reviving a community but too many times these things are difficult to provide. I could see in the pastor's face that he was willing to accept this challenge and help create stability for this family and others that will come through his church's doors.
Just as this local church helped a family in need there are countless other ways in which a community can be changed for the better. I was excited to hear that Feeding America Southwest Virginia was contributing to that change by providing meals for these kids over the summer.
Please take a look at these other stories on hunger on the Feeding America website:
At Feeding America Southwest Virginia our mission is to feed Southwest Virginia's hungry through a network of partners and engage our region in the fight to end hunger.