Planning commission approves permit for Lunenburg food pantry

Published 1:32 am Wednesday, June 7, 2023

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The Community Resource Services (CRS) food pantry is on its way to having a place to call home for good.

On Thursday, June 1, the Lunenburg Planning Commission approved a Conditional Use Permit for the organization’s new location and building. 

The nonprofit, founded in 2000, which provides a food pantry and other services for Lunenburg County, was told by The Peoples Community Center Board (TPCC) last year that they would need to vacate the building which has housed the food pantry for over 20 years.

In early Spring, the two organizations came to an agreement that would allow CRC to utilize the space for a little longer but ultimately, CRC would need to find a location that better fit its growing needs. 

“The overwhelming value of the food pantry to local citizens and the positive impact its operations have on the community is a point that both organizations agree upon,” CRS Executive Director Donna Dagner said. 

According to Dagner, in February CRC identified two acres of land on Tomlinson Road in Victoria to place a 6,000-square-foot steel building to house the CRS Food Pantry.

During the planning commission meeting, Dagner told members that the Coronavirus pandemic played a significant role in increasing the number of households CRC serves but was not the sole contributing factor to the organization’s growth over the last few years.  

“The Victoria Salvation Army and the Victoria United Methodist Church Food Pantry both closed, so CRS is experiencing an influx of clients previously served at those locations,” Dagner said.

Dagner added that the senior citizen population is its most-served age group. 

“Eighty percent of our clients and 95% of volunteer staff are aged 60 and above,” Dagner said. “Because many of them are on a fixed budget, they are at a higher risk for food insecurity, especially with soaring prices at the grocery store.”  

According to Dagner, 1/3 of all seniors report trimming the size of meals, skipping meals and not being able to afford fresh produce and other healthy choices.

Food insecurity is a serious issue that occurs when households do not have access to enough food for a healthy lifestyle. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an estimated 10% of Virginians experienced food insecurity prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this percentage increased significantly to 22% between April and May of 2020, as per the Virginia Department of Social Services. 

Nationally, the rate of food insecurity remained unchanged at 10.5% between 2019 and 2020, according to the USDA. However, there was a noticeable increase in the usage of food pantries between those two years. 

In 2019, just over 4% of families utilized food pantries. However, this number rose to almost 7% in 2020, according to the USDA.