Loudoun Hunger Relief (LHR) is in its 26th year of helping alleviate hunger in individuals and families in our county. Last year, LHR directly served more than 11,000 individuals – almost half of whom were children – and distributed more than 1.2 million pounds of food.
In addition to providing food to children, LHR provides food to families, senior citizens, the working poor and the homeless, all of whom suffer from hunger or food insecurity. This year, with help from 100WomenStrong and in collaboration with several area businesses and nonprofit organizations, LHR has begun expanding its efforts to meet its clients’ needs today and to prepare them for a better future through several innovative efforts, including:
- Pop-up pantries — groceries delivered directly into the neighborhoods where the need is greatest.
- A satellite pantry in shared space at HealthWorks, which is within walking distance of one of the lowest income population centers in Loudoun County.
- A fruit and vegetable prescription program designed to combat childhood obesity and a nutrition program designed to supply vulnerable seniors with supplemental nutrition, both of which are in partnership with HealthWorks.
- An improved new-client intake process and increased efforts to refer clients to other non-profit services and educational opportunities in household budgeting, nutrition and healthy cooking, meal planning, effective grocery shopping, stress management and job search and interviewing to help them change their current circumstances.
In addition, LHR is partnering with HealthWorks, the Loudoun Valley HomeGrown Markets Cooperative and other local farms on a new series of Nutrition and Healthy Cooking classes. Educators and volunteer nutritionists will focus on teaching how to create nutritionally balanced, easy-to-prepare weeknight dinner options.
“Working families comprise almost 70 percent of the households we serve, and they need to know how to prepare nutritious meals easily and quickly,” said Jennifer Montgomery, LHR executive director. “Our goal is to help families alleviate the struggle to provide healthy, home prepared food on a budget using the kind of shelf-stable staples they receive from us at the pantry.”
Each class will include nutrition education, advice for how to make better food choices and how to create nutritionally sound menus.
“In addition to fast weekday cooking techniques, we also must address how families can construct healthier meals with the basic items they typically receive as food pantry clients,” Montgomery explained. “We also provide families with cooking tools and small appliances, such as crock pots, which we expect will help them take what they learn into their homes.”
Many of the families served at LHR are unfamiliar with the food items that are typically donated or find them difficult to use in their standard recipes.
“Our families are enthusiastic about receiving fresh produce, but sometimes do not know how to prepare it,” Montgomery explained. “Thanks to our grant from 100WomenStrong, these Nutrition and Healthy Cooking classes will help the families we serve move from hunger to health.”