CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Cars filled two lanes for over half a mile leading up to the Chesterfield Food Bank on Friday. This kind of backup has been seen on Ironbridge Road every weekend for the past several months.
Before COVID-19 spread around the world, the Chesterfield Food Bank was helping anywhere from 8,000 to 12,000 people a month.
Now, they say nearly 30,000 people utilize the food bank’s distribution programs each month — with 200 to 400 volunteers offering their help every week.
WATCH: Aerials of long line entering the Chesterfield Food Bank on September 11, 2020. (Drone video provided by Brent Hosien.)
Kim Hill, Chesterfield Food Bank CEO, says she is just thankful to help as many people as possible, especially seeing many cars coming in with more than one family in the same vehicle.
“You roll down that window and you see the tears in that person’s eyes who never thought they would need the help of a food bank,” Hill said. “It breaks your heart.”
Saying that a lot of Chesterfield residents are showing up to get food would be an understatement — they’ve been averaging over a million meals a month.
“That is triple the amount of people we normally feed before COVID,” Hill said.
They are now searching for more volunteers to help keep up with the increased demand.
Hill said they need every volunteer that is willing to help and several roles need to be filled from sorting food, prepping trucks with food, preparing food, driving a truck and picking up food from stores that are providing donations.
“The life at the food bank here, we think it has changed forever,” Hill said. “Hunger should not exist in our country. We are one of the richest countries in the world, we need to be able to take care of our own people.”
She also added that the Spanish-speaking population accounts for nearly half of all donations from their distribution sites and says that the language barrier makes it more difficult for volunteers to match individual needs. Hill said Spanish-speaking volunteers are needed.
Amy Bartilotti, who works in the Office of Community Engagement for Chesterfield County Public Schools, says food bank donations are critical for families with kids in a virtual fall semester.
“Many of our families don’t have the luxury of having a job that they can have telecommunication with,” Bartilotti said. “Most of their jobs are jobs that you have to do in person and not being at work there are very few options [for food].”
If you would like to sign up to be a volunteer at the Chesterfield Food Bank, you can do that by visiting their website.