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Grateful for work of foodbank

Food insecurity is a longstanding issue in Western Tidewater, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the issue.

According to the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, about 22,000 of our neighbors struggle with not knowing where or how they will be able to obtain their next meal. Operating out of Norfolk, the foodbank has admirably worked with community partners to help meet the need in this area.

However, they clearly saw that they could help the rural areas of Franklin and Suffolk, as well as Southampton, Isle of Wight and Sussex counties, even more if there were a permanent branch in Western Tidewater. With a permanent branch, they can revive and expand initiatives in the area and more directly assist partnering agencies and people in need.

The branch is operating from the Healthy Food Pantry at the Hayden Village Center in Franklin on a temporary basis, and Clifford Hedgspeth Sr. has been named as the branch manager. He comes with considerable experience running a food pantry at Calvary Revival Church in Norfolk, one of the largest partner agencies in the foodbank’s network. He was instrumental in the launching of the Healthy Food Pantry Program pilot at his church, which has since expanded to three locations including the one in Franklin.

His goal is that by the end of February 2022, the foodbank will be serving 750,000 meals per year in Western Tidewater. Programs funded by a three-year, $300,000 grant from the Obici Healthcare Foundation will help in that endeavor.

Foodbank President and CEO Dr. Ruth Jones Nichols said in a statement that the new position “is critical to our continued commitment to expand services where we have identified our most vulnerable communities and food deserts.”

We are grateful for the critical, ongoing work of the foodbank in serving those who need it in our community.