To provide healthy, locally-sourced produce to food insecure residents in a pay what you can restaurant.
Our cause: The local food-insecure residents living within Wythe County who represent 12.2% of the overall population. These are 3,570 human beings who must make choices on a regular basis about missing a meal over some other pressing need -medications, rent, utilities, etc. A full 16% of our population is uninsured, and another 12.9% of our population under the age of 65 has a disability. And 3,868 residents of Wythe receive SNAP (food stamp) benefits. From a survey conducted at our Community Food Kitchen by our AmeriCorps VISTA Food Security volunteer working at HOPE two years ago, we know that 4 out 5 of the 75 clients served each meal have fixed incomes from SSI or SSDI. Over 90% of the clients said that they would attend the food kitchen five days a week if it were available.
A State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant of $25,000 will move our community development project one step closer to implementation as we have commitments of $394,000 to date for the total development cost of $650,000. This includes local community foundation awards of $239,000 and a matching grant of $125,000 from the USDA. With other grants being prepared, we are confident that by Winter 2017-18 we will complete the remaining fundraising of just over $200,000. Located prominently in downtown Wytheville, in southwest Virginia at the corner of Main Street and West Lee Highway, the HOPE Ministry Center is easily accessible by foot as well as the regional transit service, also based at our office. Clients visiting HOPE for other services will be able to partake of healthy, locally sourced meals, in our unique model of delivering multiple services to low-wealth, food- and housing-insecure households.
Relocating and expanding the existing Community Food Kitchen - where warm and free meals are prepared twice a week - into the HOPE Ministry Center with six other human service agencies will enable new synergies and services for low-wealth, food-insecure residents. By serving with volunteers and culinary arts students from the local high school, the five-day-a week "Pay What You Can" model will generate revenue to make the overall project more sustainable while giving mission-driven customers a place to break bread with those less fortunate. As important, HOPE Soup will inspire local gardeners and farmers to participate in the local farm-to-table market, the food-insecure target population will have healthier eating choices, and students will gain valuable on-the-job training for entering the food service sector.