RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — September is Hunger Action Month and our parent company, Nexstar, is partnering with Feeding America to fight food insecurity.

According to Feed More, one of out every ten people in Central Virginia is food insecure. Connections to local sources is just a phone call away thanks to the Hunger Hotline, a phone line dedicated to connecting people to a network of nearly 300 food pantries, soup kitchens and nonprofits across Central Virginia.

For four years, Pat Watson has been donating her time to the hotline.

“Each call is unique,” she told 8News. “We do try to listen. Most people have a story to tell. Many people have never found people in this situation.”

She’s one of 18 rotating volunteers at Feed More making the hotline a reality.

“The Hunger Hotline is our direct line to the community,” Sydney Orgel, Feed More client resource coordinator explained. “Feed More serves a network of 280 food pantries, soup kitchens and other nonprofits. The Hunger Hotline allows people to call in and get referrals to those that are close to them.”

Orgel says the need for food assistance spiked during the pandemic.

“On average, this year we see about 225 calls a month. During COVID, some months were even double that,” she explained.

Many who used to give are now calling in for help.

“We’ve had several calls from people who have said, ‘I used to be able to donate to Feed More. Now, I find myself needing assistance,'” Watson told 8News. “Things have definitely come full circle for those people.”

Volunteers respond to food requests each weekday and also connect callers to helpful benefits like SNAP, WIC and Medicaid and other Feed More programs.

Watson says while the job has its challenges, she takes pride in being the first link to much-needed help.

“A lot of people we deal with are going through crises, and that human voice and that encouragement – that reassurance that we are here to help – I think that makes a difference for people,” Watson said.

The Hunger Hotline can be reached at 804-521-2500.