Food Independence has had a lot to be thankful about since 2020 but this year gave us so many “thankful things” needed to handle the challenges of 2023. Inflation impacted our clients and us, as did the end of the covid supplement, especially SNAP, as did continuing sourcing challenges. Client numbers increased dramatically. April is usually a slower month but after SNAP Covid supplements ended, we gave out 441 boxes to 966 people in 396 local households, a record high for any month, ever! Through October 2023 we have distributed an average of 367 boxes and add-ons to 767 people in 340 local households each month. That’s about 10,000 pounds of food each month! It took a lot of “thankful things” to get us to this point and the path to year’s end and beyond looks bright because of them.

What were these many “thankful things”?  Below is our list so far in 2023.  

  • Our clients – The lines and the wait got longer but our clients stuck with us and helped us serve them. Our clients keep us smiling and rewarded at distribution.
  • Our volunteers – We have no paid staff but almost 60 dedicated volunteers. This includes over a dozen Grant Goodwill Grange members who deliver to 50-60 households along the Rt 16 corridor. Our volunteers helped us meet increased demand both through their work at distribution and preparation in the weeks before. We have so many folks who want to serve their community., including volunteers from several local churches.
  • Personal Donations – We receive donations from numerous organizations but local folks are our largest donor source. When many give as they are able, the result is amazing! For example, we decided not to do turkeys for Thanksgiving due to cost. Some volunteers said they thought we should and began making donations. I sent a general donation request to our supporters on November 6. Within 3 days we had pledges that covered turkeys for Thanksgiving and much of the cost of ham for Christmas. Honest, I cried!
  • 2023 Corporate/Foundation donations
    • Twin County Community Foundation – They have supported us from the beginning and when one grant ended this fall a new one started.
    • Jack M. Matthews Foundation – We received a significant grant from them this summer as part of a Grayson LandCare award.
    • Food City – On November 1, we got a substantial store credit from their 2022 Race Against Hunger campaign. Thanks to Store Manager Tyler Smith for enrolling us in the program this year! (PS: 2023 Race Against Hunger is happening now; help if you can)
    • Food Lion through Feeding SWVA – We were one of a limited group of pantries that received a major buying credit at Feeding SWVA thanks to a donation from Food Lion!
  • Food donations and wholesale purchases –
    • Feeding SWVA – Our regional Feeding America food bank/warehouse is our primary source of shelf stable and frozen foods. They get corporate donations of excess, near date and unsold goods and buy bulk quantities at “low retail” prices. We may sometimes struggle with the procurement system but we could not exist without them. 
      • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – In early 2023 we wondered if we could afford meat as prices had soared. By February, the Latter-Day Saints began donating full tractor trailers of frozen hamburger and pork roast, processed for food pantry use, to some regional banks including Feeding SWVA, each month. We have gotten this meat for use each month this year. It and retail pack chicken donations to Feeding SWVA allowed us to provide good meat products to clients all year.  It is a huge help to us and many pantries. We hope it continues! 
    • SWVA Farmers Market – We buy most produce at the wholesale part of the market in Hillsville. We now buy over a ton of potatoes from them most months. We also get local cabbage, apples and other produce when possible. Kevin Semonas, Manager, works hard to find us the best deals on excess or off-contract produce, and is amazing.
    • Food City – Tyler Smith, Independence Store Manager, got us a great sale price on all those Thanksgiving turkey breasts we just ordered! He works with us to get bulk orders of sale items when they are lower priced than Feeding SWVA. We also order 400+ loaves of bread from them most months. We could not ask for a better local partner.
    • Local farms – We have gotten produce, such as cabbage, apples, pumpkins, from local farmers when possible. We hope to expand this as price and availability allow.
    • Matthews Living History Farm – The farm started a “Scare Out Hunger” scarecrow event last year as part of their Fall Festival. We just received a dozen boxes of foodstuff that were donated at this year’s festival. 
    • Bridle Creek Church – They have gotten cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving the last two years. They asked if there was another item that clients might use more, so this year they will be donating milk for Thanksgiving cooking and other uses.
    • Gardeners and farmers market vendors – During summer, surplus local produce is donated. We offer these fresh, limited quantity treats as choice items for clients. 
  • Town of Independence – The town has been a strong supporter from our start. They currently loan us traffic cones, allow public works folks to help with heavy items on occasion and provide police help with traffic. Traffic has become more of an issue with recent growth. The Town and Police department helped us develop a new traffic flow pattern. Chief Matthew Adams has worked with the funeral home manager to let us line up client cars in their lot that will remove most of the congestion from Main St.
  • Last, and certainly not least, is GRAYSON LANDCARE, our parent organization – We are the newest of GLC’s “Family of Programs ”. We operate under the GLC nonprofit corporation charter and work cooperatively with programs like the Free Market, Farmers Market and Permaculture. GLC provides administrative and bookkeeping support, assist as needed and helps represent us in the community. Being part of GLC has been good for us and, I think, good for GLC.

If you read this far, thank you, and you know Food Independence has an immense amount to be thankful about this year. We thank everyone listed above and anyone else, I may have forgotten (sorry!). We are very grateful for all the “thankful things” we received this year! Happy Thanksgiving!

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