Written by: Victoria Broehm | November 16, 2020
Over the past few months, I have been reflecting on the growing number of people who are in need of food assistance due to furloughs and layoffs from the coronavirus pandemic. Feeding America estimates that more than 50 million people, including 17 million children, could be food insecure this year due to the downtrodden economy. As a working-from-home mom, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen making sure my children eat balanced, nutritious meals, and cannot imagine the difficult choices facing some parents to keep their families fed during these trying times.
With this in mind, I approached our local food bank in Arlington, Va., the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC), to see if there was a safe way I could get involved. From March through June, they served over 5,000 families, consisting of roughly 12,300 people, which is a 33% increase in overall families served (based on data from the five months before and after the start of the pandemic). Given health and safety reasons, 30% of their core volunteers have not been able to assist this year, which has diminished their ability to provide even more food aid to the local community.
With new physical distancing protocols in place at AFAC’s warehouse and limited volunteer group sizes, I saw a way for the American Feed Industry Association staff to give back to our local community. On Friday, Nov. 6, seven staff, including myself, Lacie Dotterweich, Sarah Novak, Veronica Rovelli, Lynnette Tucker, Rob Cooper and Constance Cullman, and a couple of guests, gathered at the AFAC to bag rice and oatmeal for local families. Within a couple of hours, we bagged over 1,000 portioned-out bags of the food staples, to be provided to the families they service later.
Some of us had not seen one another since we left the office in March, so it was nice to spend an afternoon chatting and laughing with colleagues – in a safe way – but even better, to be able to do so for such a good cause.
Novak, AFIA’s vice president of membership and public relations, commented on the experience, saying, “Working in agriculture all my life and being a mother of three, volunteering with an organization that helps feed families is very important to me - especially like AFAC, where 30% of their clients are children and 30% are elderly. Nothing gets done by one person alone, which means we have to band together to make the changes we want to see in the world and I want to be a part of that change.”
Although we were disappointed some staff members located outside of the Beltway or with high-risk family members could not participate, we heard that they are still finding ways to give back in their communities. A few examples of these are listed below.
I continue to be inspired by our member companies who have gone above-and-beyond since March to donate millions of pounds of protein and dairy products, pet food and more to support their local communities (see recent blog posts here and here and Journal article starting on page 23 here). Not only should these essential workers be commended for keeping our food supply stocked and stable, but also, for the ways that they live and breathe the “we’re all in this together” mantra every day.
As we near Thanksgiving, I hope you will join me in not only counting your blessings, but thinking of ways that you can continue to give back to your local communities. 2020 has been hard on everyone, and some have been hit even harder, but we will only get through it together if we love our neighbors as we love ourselves.