SALEM, Va. – Summer is just weeks away and that means some kids won’t have access to consistent meals provided at school.
“It’s a big concern. it’s a big concern,” said Mickey Estienne, the director of the Salem/Roanoke County Food Pantry.
He said this time last year, the pantry served 294 people a month. Now that’s grown to 410.
“We’re getting a lot of clients that hadn’t been to the pantry in years that are coming back in need,” said Estienne.
The pantry also runs a snack buddy program, providing snacks to preschool and elementary students in Salem, Vinton and Roanoke County public schools eleven months out of the year
But Estienne said that inflation and the rising cost of groceries mean donations are down.
“People that could or used to donate are struggling also,” said Estienne.
On Saturday, May 13, the pantry is participating in the U.S.P.S. Stamp Out Hunger food drive.
City of Salem residents can donate by simply leaving nonperishable and canned food items by their mailbox. All those donations will go directly to the pantry.
At Feeding Southwest Virginia, the nonprofit is participating in the drive virtually by accepting monetary donations online to restock bare shelves.
Wes Childress, director of marketing and communications, said donations are down 10 to 15%, but demand is up 30%. Especially now that additional pandemic benefits have ended, he said families are hurting.
“We’re starting to see the numbers that we saw pre-pandemic, without the donations and the funding of the pandemic,” said Childress.
The nonprofit supplies food for dozens of summer backpack programs across the region. With summer fast approaching, they’re hoping the community steps up so no kid goes hungry.
“Kids shouldn’t be worried about where their next meal is coming from,” said Childress.
To learn about food resources near you, click here.