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$7M of federal money is going to help food banks in Virginia. Here's how

Gov. Ralph Northam said the state was allocating $7 million CARES Act dollars to help people who rely on food assistance.

RICHMOND, Va. — Gov. Ralph Northam said the state is allocating $7 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars to food banks to help people who rely on food assistance in Virginia.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the already serious problem of food insecurity in Virginia and across the country,” Northam said. “This funding will help Virginia food banks and other food assistance programs meet the increased demand for their services and ensure every Virginian has continued access to nutritious food during these challenging times.”

Before the coroanvirus pandemic hit, roughly 850,000 people in Virginia, including 250,000 children, didn't know from where their next meal would come. Feeding America estimates that up to 275,000 more Virginians may experience food insecurity in 2020 because of COVID-19.

This CARES Act funding will help the Federation of Virginia Food Banks buy fresh food and dairy products. It helps fill the gap expected when the federal Farmers to Families Food Box program ends and commodities drop severely at the end of the year. Food banks also can use the allocated money to purchase shelf-stable commodities and address storage, refrigeration, and transportation issues.

“Our seven member food banks have gone the extra mile this year to ensure every Virginian has access to the food they need to thrive,” said Eddie Oliver, Executive Director of the Federation of Virginia Food Banks. “Our efforts to create a food system that works for all has been made all the more urgent by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are so grateful to have the Commonwealth as a committed partner in that mission.”

Virginia committed an initial $1.4 million in CARES Act funding to help launch a statewide initiative with Sentara Healthcare, Truist, and the Federation of Virginia Food Banks called the “We Care” COVID-19 Virginia Emergency Food Support Plan in July. It provided about 100,000 food boxes to families.

Northam asked the General Assembly to approve an additional $650,000 in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding to support food bank services. Northam and the Children’s Cabinet recently released the Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger. It's a set of goals and strategies to prioritize food security during the response to COVID-19 and beyond that.

Northam, as well as members of his cabinet, and staff will be volunteering at food banks during November.