Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger Data Dashboard
Hunger in Virginia is a solvable problem. The Commonwealth of Virginia is committed to increasing access to affordable, healthy foods and to addressing the realities of systemic under-investment and the resulting injustices of unaffordable housing, transportation, health care, and nutrition. The Roadmap to End Hunger is a comprehensive agenda to alleviate food insecurity in the Commonwealth. It is intended to serve as a guide and source of inspiration for the people who work every day to organize their neighbors, learn from one another, advocate and act to achieve lasting change. This page will serve as a tool for accountability and action and will be used to track our collective progress toward achieving the Roadmap’s goals.
Goal 1: 90% of eligible Virginians will receive SNAP benefits
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formerly called food stamps, helps our neighbors to stretch their food budgets, purchase healthier foods, and better afford other household expenses like medical or utility bills. It is a proven method to improve food security, health, and economic self-sufficiency even decades after use.
SNAP also helps to boost the local economy. In fact, every $1 in SNAP benefits helps to generate between $1.50 and $1.80 in economic activity.
Goal 2: Increase participation in the Virginia WIC Program by 2%.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) aims to protect the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age five who are at nutrition risk. The program provides low-income families with children under five years old with nutrition education, support for breastfeeding mothers, supplemental foods, referrals to healthcare providers, and more.
From February 2020 through August 2021, the Virginia WIC Program has realized a significant increase in children participating, amounting to a 10% increase in total program participation. The use of telehealth to complete the certification requirements and the waiving of physical presence requirements significantly reduced barriers to program participation and contributed toward this increase.
Families can check eligibility or register for the WIC program online by clicking this link.
Goal 3: 70% of free- and reduced-price eligible students participating in school lunch will also participate in school breakfast
Students do better in school when they start their day with breakfast. Eating a healthy school breakfast results in higher test scores, calmer classrooms, fewer trips to the nurse, stronger attendance, higher graduation rates, and supports students in attaining better employment opportunities later in life.
Despite the proven benefits of school breakfast, there is still a gap in the number of students who are actually accessing school breakfast. It is our responsibility to bridge that gap.
Goal 4: All localities will have adequate nutritional
support for children during school breaks through Summer EBT, Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), and/or food bank
programming such as school-based pantries and weekend food backpacks.
Food Bank Programming
Over 450,000 students in Virginia who rely on free or reduced-price school meals still face food insecurity on evenings, weekends, and school breaks. Virginia’s food banks operate several programs designed to fill the nutrition gaps faced by our children. The food banks’ summer and afterschool meal programs, school-based pantry programs, and weekend food backpack programs are all uniquely tailored to the needs of the community and deploy innovative service models, so children have the fuel they need to learn, play, and grow.
Child Nutrition Summer Meals
The USDA’s Child Nutrition Summer Meals programs, including The Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option, are administered by the Virginia Department of Education. These programs provide free meals to kids and teens up to 18 years of age when school is out, typically during the summer months. These programs are important because summer can be the hungriest time of the year for kids whose families are facing economic hardship, given that in-school breakfast and lunch are unavailable.
Summer Meals: Successes and Opportunities
Prior to the pandemic, only 15% of Virginia kids who rely on free or reduced-price lunches during the school year were also getting free meals in the summer through the SFSP. Virginia is committed to expanding Summer Meals access: in 2013, only 36% of school divisions offered Summer Meals, but that number grew to include nearly every single division in Summer 2020. The state provides technical assistance and training for schools and community organizations looking to start or expand their programs. Organizations like No Kid Hungry Virginia provide capacity-building funding for innovative service models, such as mobile meals and on-site educational activities, which are referred to as "site enrichment." Public and private partners across the state make sure that families are aware of this important resource through local marketing and promotion.
Across the country, nearly 2.5 times more meals were served through SFSP in July 2020 compared to July 2019. Current USDA waivers, including area eligibility, non-congregate feeding, mealtimes, parent/guardian meal pick-up, and others are suggested to have been the main driver in the increase in number of meals served. This is because they eliminating some barriers to participation in the program, including transportation and location of the meal sites. This emerging evidence indicates that there is potential to strengthen summer feeding programs after the pandemic through maintaining these program flexibilities.
Goal 5: Ensure the availability of at least one CACFP afterschool meal/snack opportunity in all eligible localities
The At-Risk Afterschool Meals component of Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides healthy meals and snacks to children and teenagers participating in afterschool programs in low-income areas. Though progress has been made in expanding the reach of CACFP’s Afterschool Meals, on average, only 4% of children eligible for free or reduced-price lunch participate in the Afterschool Meals program each school day.
In July 2022, a mandate will go into effect that requires there to be at least 1 afterschool meals site in every locality where the eligibility for free and reduced priced meals is greater than 50%.
Goal 6: Virginia Fresh Match and the WIC and Senior
Farmers Market Nutrition Programs will be available at all
highly accessible, high-need farmers’ markets
Virginia Fresh Match (VFM) is a nutrition incentive program that increases SNAP participants’ ability to buy nutritious, Virginia-grown fruits and vegetables from local sources. When shoppers use their EBT cards at VFM partner outlets, they receive additional funds for fresh produce. VFM partners include farmers markets, mobile markets, farm stands, and neighborhood grocery stores working collaboratively to increase the purchasing power of SNAP benefits to buy healthy produce. VFM leverages existing government food nutrition programs to encourage local shopping and improve the health of participating SNAP recipients, increasing access to fresh food for low-income residents while contributing to the local food economy.
Farmers markets and VFM retail outlets are exceptional sources of affordable, healthy food for Virginia families. In addition to increasing access to fresh, healthy foods, VFM retail outlets provide an opportunity to keep grocery dollars invested in the local economy and help to create jobs. An increasing number of farmers markets and retail food outlets offer VFM incentives and accept WIC and Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) coupons, increasing the capacity for low-income households to purchase and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
Goal 7: A statewide network of Hunger Action Coalitions will be established to advance the goals of the Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger and to identify and address local opportunities for improving food access
State policies and programmatic priorities will only be successful if tied to authentic partnerships with grassroots organizations, which are driven by the lived experiences of families facing food insecurity. Hunger Action Coalitions are cross-sector collaborations developed to pursue the goals of the Roadmap at the local level. The Roadmap’s goal is for every region in Virginia to have a Hunger Action Coalition to combat food insecurity and hunger in all communities.
Interested in joining a Hunger Action Coalition? Click here!
Goal 8: A framework for incentivizing investment in food deserts and marginalized communities will be established
Food deserts, or areas of low food access, are symptoms of decades of divestments in communities of color. In order to promote equity in the food system and ensure that all individuals have access to healthy, affordable foods, intentional investments are needed in these communities. Economic development funding is an innovative way to promote equity and justice in the local food system by investing in new or expanding food retailers that address food access issues in the Commonwealth. Programs like the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund (or VFAIF) offer grants and loans to fund business development, construction, rehabilitation, equipment upgrades, and expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, and innovative food retail projects in historically marginalized communities.