(WFXR) — While many people associated summertime with time at the pool, camping trips, or family picnics, for too many southwest Virginians, the season means hunger.

With one in five children in southwest Virginia experiencing food insecurity, summer is a vulnerable time for many children when school meals are not available.

The “Days of Caring Food Drive” comes at a critical time when demand for food will increase throughout the 26 counties and nine cities served by Feeding Southwest Virginia. Your food donation will help make sure the food bank and all of its partner pantries have enough food for the increased demand this summer.

For example, the Community Solutions Center (CSC) in Melrose opened in 2018 as one of Feeding Southwest Virginia’s many programs.

The CSC hosts the Meal Production Training Program, which prepares adult students for better paying jobs in the food service industry in a 12-week training program. Meanwhile, as part of their education, those students make hot, nutritious meals that will be distributed to children at various sites in the greater Roanoke area. In anticipation of this summer children’s feeding program, the CSC expects to prepare approximately 14,000 meals to be distributed to food insecure children right here in our community.

Food insecurity involves a person’s inability to consistently access or afford adequate food to live an active, healthy lifestyle.

Being food insecure also means a person is only able to access an abundance of processed, prepackaged, calorie dense foods, which do not contain adequate nutritional value, especially for the growing minds and bodies of children. In other words, only eating inexpensive food like crackers, chips, and Twinkies are not sufficient for good health. 

Feeding Southwest Virginia has discussed the connection between hunger and health and the fact that food insecurity is closely associated with chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. 

Costs are up as well at Feeding Southwest Virginia. For instance, fuel costs are up over 50% to run the trucks delivering food across the organization’s 12,000 square miles of service region.

In such an increasingly challenging financial landscape, Feeding Southwest Virginia is dedicated to working with community partners to address the food insecurity that faces many families in the community.

If you would like to make a financial donation to Feeding Southwest Virginia, click here.

Meanwhile, the ‘Days of Caring’ summer food drive will take place from Monday, June 6 through Friday, June 17. Donations will be accepted at Feeding Southwest Virginia’s Salem Distribution Center at 1025 Electric Road in Salem. However, due to the recent Jif Peanut Butter recall, you are urged not to donate that food item.

Your donations will help make sure the food bank and all of its partner pantries have enough food for the increased demand this summer.

If you or someone you know is in need of food assistance, Feeding Southwest Virginia provides food to network partners, which distribute it across 26 counties and nine cities throughout the region. If you want to find out a nearby food pickup site, follow this link.

In fact, as part of our annual ‘Day of Caring’ initiative, members of the WFXR News team will be out and about on Friday, June 17 so we can give back to the community. That volunteer work includes collecting food donations at Feeding Southwest Virginia, as well as walking dogs at Angels of Assisi.