Local pantry plans spring food drive

Gloria Thatcher, Doug Harris and Jo Ann Tolbert sort produce at the Love Outreach Food Pantry. On Saturday, May 11, the local nonprofit will partner with the U.S. Postal Service to collect donations during an annual Mother’s Day food drive.

As some residents of Orange County face uncertainty over how to afford nutritious meals, Love Outreach Food Pantry and the U.S. Postal Service are teaming up to do their part to serve the needs of the community.

Love Outreach, which operates under the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank’s network of food providers, serves hundreds of people in need each month from its location on Blue Ridge Drive in Orange. The food is sourced through a combination of contributions from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and donations from area farmers, organizations, businesses and individuals. In order to receive TEFAP food, those applying must meet the income guidelines set forth by the USDA, but intake coordinator Laurie Herndon stressed that many others are eligible to receive donated food and that the pantry works to adapt to the needs of anyone who is facing hardship.

“It’s not written in stone,” she said. “If somebody comes through that door, it takes a lot of guts to do that, so nobody’s going to leave that first time without food and the hope that things are going to get better.”

In order to help stock the pantry’s supply of donated items, each year local post offices throughout the county sponsor a food drive. This year, the Orange, Gordonsville, Barboursville, Somerset and Unionville post offices will be participating and will be placing notices in mailboxes in the coming week with instructions for the drive. Those interested in donating can place canned and nonperishable items in a bag attached to their mailbox on the morning of Saturday, May 11, to be picked up throughout the day during mail delivery.

Love Outreach accepts all nonperishable items, but according to director Gloria Thatcher, the pantry’s greatest ongoing need is for items that are safe and easy for children to prepare in the event that their parents are working or otherwise not at home. Some of the most in-demand items include cereal, peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, tuna, soup and pasta sauce.

Last year, over 8,700 pounds of food were raised between the five post offices during the drive, and this year the pantry hopes to raise even more to meet the ever-growing needs of the population.

“We are praying for an increase,” said Jo Ann Tolbert, Love Outreach assistant director. “Our goal is just to raise as many pounds of food as possible.”

For those who have the time do so, Love Outreach also welcomes volunteers to help with weighing and sorting the food that is collected and brought to the pantry during the drive. Volunteers should plan to show up between 4 and 5 p.m. and stay until approximately 7:30 p.m.

Herndon emphasized how important the time and donations of churches, schools and organizations such as the Boy Scouts and 4-H have been in fulfilling the organization’s mission. She also shared that she feels a personal responsibility to help those in her community who are less fortunate.

“I feel like we have all been blessed with so much that it’s our duty and our responsibility to help when there’s a need, and to be able to do that is heartwarming,” she said. “There are so many people coming in that are so kind and they’re having to juggle with so much—are they going to be able to get prescriptions or get food? It’s breaking that cycle, and helping people to be able to get out of that cycle.”

Love Outreach Food Pantry is located at 252 Blue Ridge Drive, Orange, and is open first through fourth Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon and third Mondays from 4 to 5:30 p.m. For more information, contact Jo Ann Tolbert at (540) 223-6674. For more information on The Emergency Food Assistance Program, visit www.fns.usda.gov.

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