Federation of Virginia Food Banks Awarded $1 Million Grant from Sentara Healthcare and Optima Health

Sentara and Optima Donate 5.5M for Medicaid Expansion

In an event at the Pocahontas Building in Richmond, Sentara Healthcare and Optima Health announced that the Federation of Virginia Food Banks is one of four nonprofit organizations to receive grants from a pool of $5.5 million to support needs stemming from Medicaid expansion, and address social determinants affecting the health and well-being of low-income Virginians. The Federation will receive $1 million to improve access to nutritious foods through direct-service programs and partnerships throughout the Commonwealth.

The Federation supports the seven regional food banks serving Virginia and greater Washington DC in providing food, funding, education, and advocacy. The Federation’s members are the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, Capital Area Food Bank, Feed More, Feeding America Southwest Virginia, the Foodbank of Southeast Virginia and the Eastern Shore, Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank, and the Virginia Peninsula Food Bank. Last year, Virginia’s food banks distributed 121 million pounds of food to more than 1 million people through 1,700 community agencies.

Sentara and Optima’s gift is the healthcare sector’s single most significant investment to date in the work of the Federation, and is an affirmation of the central role that nutrition plays in promoting positive health outcomes. Research has shown that food insecurity is a critical factor in multiple adverse health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.

“This grant provides the opportunity to reimagine the ways in which Virginia’s food banks approach their work,” said Federation Executive Director, Eddie Oliver. “We will be able to lead in bold new ways, expanding on existing healthcare partnerships and connecting more people to the resources they need to lead active, healthy lives. We could not be more grateful.”

“We are so appreciative of Sentara and Optima’s support for our efforts to improve food access in Virginia,” added Michael McKee, CEO of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and Board Chair of the Federation. “With this grant, we will be able to work collaboratively and design, implement, and evaluate initiatives to better understand how we can address food security as a key social determinant of health.”

Each of the Federation’s seven member food banks will use a portion of the grant funds to implement local programming in conjunction with a statewide strategic plan to improve referral systems, increase the availability of nutritious foods in the emergency food network, and/or connect low-income individuals with food options that mitigate diet-related diseases.

For more information, please reach out to Eddie Oliver, Executive Director, Federation of Virginia Food Banks, at 804-549-5675 or eoliver@vafoodbanks.org.