Meet Your Nonprofit - Blue Ridge Area Food Bank

Describe your nonprofit’s mission.
Our mission is to feed hungry people through a network of community organizations in central and western Virginia, and to engage our communities in the fight to end hunger locally and nationally.

What need in our community brought about the creation of your nonprofit?
Thirty-five years ago, our founder Phil Grasty was compelled to seek food assistance in order to serve young adults in a ministry he operated with his wife. This is when he came in contact with the food banking model.

He realized that a food bank could meet a critical need faced by many other local organizations like his.

The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank was founded in 1981 in Staunton, VA by a 5-member board, including Grasty, who would become the organization’s first executive director. By the end of the first year, the Food Bank distributed 233,000 pounds of food to the hungry through 202 member agencies in 18 counties along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains. At that point in time, our work was considered a “major experiment in food banking” because of the rural nature of our service area.

How has your nonprofit made a difference in our community?
By feeding those who are food insecure, we we have restored hope, fueled individual potential and nourished lives. The nourishment we provide helps children concentrate in school, helps seniors live healthfully, and helps remove one less worry for families who struggle financially.

How can community members help you achieve your mission?
The community can help solve hunger by volunteering for the Food Bank, advocating on behalf of food-insecure neighbors and supporting hunger relief by donating food and funds. The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank can provide four meals with just a $1 donation.

Tell us a story that has come out of your work.
A young lady named Jessica Wirtanen grew up homeless after her parents divorced when she was 8 years of age. She and her brothers stayed with their mother in the basement of an acquaintance, and at one point, they even slept in her mother’s vehicle in a Walmart parking lot. When her mother was able to move into a home during Jessica’s teen years, the home lost access to running water because of poorly maintained pipes that their landlord did not repair. Through it all, Jessica recalls that she was never hungry. Her mother located a Food Bank partner agency and was able to get food to feed her children. Jessica had the fuel she needed to graduate with good grades, complete community college, and then go on to James Madison University where she completed her degree in health sciences. Today, Jessica is in graduate school. She comes back to the Food Bank to volunteer, and she credits our organization with helping to fuel her potential.

Learn more about the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank

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