|Gov. Ralph Northam recently released the inaugural Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger, which establishes a unified set of goals and strategies to prioritize food security during the current public health emergency and beyond. The Roadmap was produced by Northam’s Children’s Cabinet.
In Virginia and across the country, food insecurity rates are increasing, with an estimated 445,000 additional Virginians experiencing food insecurity because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the onset of this public health crisis, approximately 850,000 Virginians were food insecure, including 250,000 children.
“This pandemic has created challenges for the entire food system and added new burdens on thousands of Virginia families,” said Northam. “Since the beginning of our Administration, we have prioritized addressing nutrition and food insecurity, and that work has never been more relevant than it is today. The Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger looks beyond our current struggles and outlines a way forward to end hunger in the Commonwealth and ensure equitable access to healthy, affordable food for all Virginians.”
The Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger lays out opportunities to reduce food insecurity in the Commonwealth, and critical next steps to develop policies, programs, and partnerships to benefit Virginia’s children and communities.
“Keeping all Virginians healthy requires our commitment to keeping them nourished,” said First Lady Pamela Northam. “This is an important resource that supports food access for all Virginians including our littlest learners, students, families, and seniors. I am grateful to the members of the Children’s Cabinet working group who have worked diligently to create the Roadmap as a path forward.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought renewed attention to the broader social determinants of health including food security. The Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger includes goals and strategies to:
Expand child nutrition programs
Increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women Infant and Children (WIC) Program
Increase nutrition support for seniors
Grow access to local food for schools and families
Strengthen connections between food access programs and the healthcare sector
Encourage food and agriculture investments in food deserts and marginalized communities
Amplify public awareness of hunger in Virginia and support information sharing across public and private sectors
Support community organizing to combat food insecurity and hunger.
To create the Roadmap, the Northam Administration, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Social Services and the Federation of Virginia Food Banks, held listening sessions to gather input from stakeholder groups, community leaders, and Virginians that work in and are impacted by the food system. The seven listening sessions were held in Abingdon, Roanoke, Danville, Hampton, Fairfax County, Norfolk, and Richmond.
The Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger emphasizes the importance of federal, state, and local policies and programs being in authentic partnerships with grassroots organizations, which are driven by the lived experiences of food insecure families. The Roadmap highlights the Richmond Food Justice Alliance and Cultivate Charlottesville as two examples of advocacy groups organizing at the local level to improve food access for their communities.