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RPS, Market at 25th Partner to Feed Families With Unstable Housing

Four people standing together in food court
The Market at 25th, a local grocery store, is working with RPS to provide meals to people with unstable housing. (File Photo: Catherine Komp/VPM)

School may be officially out for summer, but food distribution efforts aren’t ending just because the school year has.

Richmond’s public school system is partnering with the Market at 25th grocery store to deliver food to families experiencing unstable housing. They could be living in a motel, or doubled up with relatives. The program is made possible from grants from No Kid Hungry and the Community Foundation, along with other philanthropic contributions to the district.

Sarah Steeley, associate director with No Kid Hungry Virginia, said their $50,000 grant to RPS is part of over $600,000 in grants they’ve given to districts across the state since the start of the pandemic.

“We're really proud of our school divisions and community organizations who have innovated in real time to make sure that kids are getting the food that they need in the way that is easiest and most efficient,” Steely said.

Volunteers from RPS pick up groceries at the Market at 25th on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and deliver the food to around 200 families with unstable housing. They’re getting two bags of groceries each week. This work began in April, and is continuing into the summer.

“The goal is to provide families with enough food for a full week,” said Shadae Harris, chief engagement officer for Richmond Public Schools.

According to Norm Gold, the developer of the Market at 25th, families are getting more than just canned goods. They’re getting things like bread, hotdogs, salad and fresh fruit.

“They're all in a difficult situation,” Gold said. “We’re trying to provide something that will help them feel a little better about themselves, and that's what motivates me. I've had 20 years of food bank experience before I took on this role at the store really to serve the community and serve people, so we're just honored to be able to be part of it.”

The school district’s food distribution strategy has evolved since the pandemic began. What started as school distribution sites early in the pandemic quickly evolved to a mobile distribution strategy, with volunteers on busses full of food stopping at key locations within the community. Now, the district is also able to provide meals to families on the weekends.

“When we made that shift we just saw our ability to increase the amount of families we were serving,” Harris said.

The district is still looking for volunteers to help distribute meals this summer.