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Friday, April 21, 2023

Almost two months ago, the federal government ended its COVID-era emergency increases to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients. Ever since, food pantries in the Charlottesville area have been slammed.

A man loads a paper bag of groceries into the back seat of a white SUV. Behind him people walk in and out of a small brick building carrying food.
Credit: Jessie Higgins/Charlottesville Tomorrow

Food pantries see usage soar after government cuts pandemic-era emergency benefits

At the Emergency Food Network, a small pantry on Harris Street, the number of clients has doubled. At Loaves and Fishes, a larger pantry near Albemarle High School, workers are seeing the return of people who had stopped coming when emergency SNAP allotments started.

It’s a sign, pantry workers say, that  emergency COVID-19 funding was addressing a need that has not gone away.

“I have nothing in my house right now,” said a woman waiting to pick up food at the Emergency Food Network. Her SNAP benefits fell from $200 a month to $77 when allotments ended. “I am eating beans out of a can right now, trying to piece together a meal each evening using whatever we can find.”

A bronze statue of a bearded man with a bow tie is shown from the waist up. Behind it are trees. Chains hang in front.
Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

Trial over Charlottesville’s statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee scheduled for Thursday

The complicated public saga over a bronze statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that was once on display in Charlottesville’s Market Street Park will be back in court next week.

The case has been scheduled for trial twice this year, and postponed twice. It is scheduled for trial for the third time on Thursday, April 25 at 9:30 a.m. in Charlottesville Circuit Court.

At the heart of this case is whether or not the city had the legal right to give the statue to an organization that intended to destroy it. The Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation and the Ratcliffe Foundation allege that it was not.

A woman with arms outstretched talks to a group of people
Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

City receives just one local proposal for Confederate statue, and the organization wants to melt Lee down

For some background here, the city took the statue down in July 2021 and then, following state law, began accepting proposals from people and organizations interested in taking possession of it. By late 2021, the city had multiple proposals, but just one from a local organization. The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center wanted to take the statue, melt it, and use the bronze to make new works of art.

City Council liked that proposal best, and gave the statue to the Heritage Center.

A bronze statue of a man on a horse sits tied to a trailer being pulled around the corner of a street. People are lined up behind barricades on the sidewalk watching and taking pictures.
Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

Confederate groups may once again stall Charlottesville’s plans for the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee

Within weeks, two Confederate legacy groups sued the city, alleging the Council had broken the state law that gave them the authority to transfer ownership of the statue.

This is a more complicated issue than it sounds, and here’s why. The law says that “a locality may remove, relocate, contextualize, or cover any [Confederate] monument or memorial on the locality’s public property.”

It does not expressly say a statue may be destroyed. A judge will decide on Thursday if that is allowed.

If the trial goes forward (and is not postponed again) we’ll be there covering it. Watch for updates next week.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

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I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org.