Feeding America Brings Politicians Together for Common Cause

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Local officials help out at the SW Virginia Food Bank in Salem.
Local officials help out at the SW Virginia Food Bank in Salem.

by Beverly Amsler

Virginia politicians put their politics aside for a day and worked together to help end hunger in Southwest Virginia.  The lawmakers, their families and friends, along with community partners and volunteers participated in the first Virginia Legislators Volunteer Day.

Several elected officials, including State Senator John Edwards, Salem Mayor Randy Foley, Roanoke County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Charlotte A. Moore, and Roanoke City Councilwoman Anita Price helped out at the Feeding America Southwest Virginia Food Bank in Salem this past Tuesday.

Food Bank President & CEO Pamela Irvine said “September is Hunger Action Month. Individuals are asked to take action to fight domestic hunger all month long.”  She says they selected the month to create awareness that hunger exists and that it will take everyone working together to eliminate hunger in Southwest Virginia.

Salem Mayor Randy Foley encouraged all Salemites to contribute their time and resources “to ensure that Southwest Virginians do not go hungry.”  He said hunger is something that can’t be tolerated in this day and age.

Delegate Greg Habeeb was there volunteering his time. “We’re also trying to bring attention to what these folks are doing.  We have increasing poverty, and really you see that at the level of the kids.  When kids don’t have food … that really goes right to the heart of what we as a society are supposed to be taking care of.”

That sentiment was echoed by educator and Roanoke City Councilwoman Anita Price, who presented the city’s Hunger Action Month proclamation to James E. Pearman Jr., Chairman of the Board of Feeding America Southwest Virginia.

“The work that is done here is so tremendously important.  How appropriate that September is designated as an observance of looking at hunger because that’s when our children begin going back to school.  And making certain that children are fed and are able to do their best in school cannot be done unless their little bellies are full.”

Senator John Edwards agreed.  “Nutrition is extremely important for children.  And it’s also important for adults.  People have finally become aware of the importance of quality food and good nutritional food … this generation may be the first generation that does not live as long as their parents because of bad nutrition.”

Of the 200,000 residents in Edwards’ 21st Senatorial district, about 20 percent live in poverty.  “A lot of those are children.  And a lot of these children only get a good meal, a good quality meal, in school.  The school breakfast program, for example, is extremely important so children are ready to learn when they come to school,” he said. Councilwoman Price told Irvine and others affiliated with the Food Bank to “Keep on keeping on.”

Irvine and the staff at Feeding America Southwest Virginia plan to do just that.  The food bank serves 26 counties and 10 cities in Southwestern Virginia and is celebrating its 30th birthday this year.  “We’re excited to know that we have made it 30 years.  Some days we weren’t quite sure.  It’s not been easy.”

Irvine says the next hunger awareness event is titled “The Paper Plate Campaign.” They will be collecting 250 paper plates with comments written on them from those “struggling to put food on their plate.”  Those plates will be put on display in time for Thanksgiving this November.