It took three trips, about 40 volunteers and a digital app, but the “We Feed” movement eventually gathered food from more than 130 homes for the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia.
David Richards, the founder of the initiative and CEO at the Norfolk technology company Concursive, said he was happy with the turnout, especially since it was the program’s first trip to Virginia Beach. The operation involves dropping off bags at doors with instructions for people who want to donate, and a subsequent collection that is aided by a mobile app.
Richards had planned to distribute 1,000 bags for the first Virginia Beach campaign in the Buckner Farms neighborhood, but only about 550 of them were handed out. He didn’t say why fewer bags were distributed than planned.
The response beat his goal of 10 percent neighborhood participation.
“We had about 25 percent participation, which is what we’ve been seeing,” Richards said, referring to the We Feed collections he has done in Norfolk, where the program began back in July.
City Councilwoman Shannon Kane, who helped bring the program to Virginia Beach, was impressed by the generosity of the neighborhood.
“They’re asked all the time to give,” she said. “The fact that they gave so much to this program was very touching.”
The green, reusable bags were distributed on Nov. 1 for residents to fill with food over the following week. Once they filled it, they could use the “We Feed” app to alert organizers to their awaiting donations. Volunteers returned Saturday to distribute reminder fliers in Buckner Farms and once again on Sunday to collect the food.
A portion of the food will be sorted at the Food Bank and sent to the Virginia Beach school district to be distributed as a part of its Beach Bag program to help hungry students.
Kane said she wants to refine the process so the food can go directly to the schools next time.
“As a mother, it pains me to think there are kids – that there are people – who aren’t eating,” Kane said.
Richards said it took about 40 volunteers, ranging from 10-year-olds to veterans, to distribute the bags and fliers and then collect the food. Many of the volunteers were students from the International Baccalaureate program at Princess Anne High School.
Some of those students are now working with their high school to start an organization to help run We Feed movements in other Virginia Beach neighborhoods, Kane said.
Richards said he plans to hold more We Feed collections in Virginia Beach and wants to work with the city to help offset the cost of the bags used there. In Norfolk, where the program began, the city has given enough money to cover 10,000 bags, he said.
People can start their own We Feed drives in their neighborhoods. A starter package — that includes 50 bags and a local neighborhood app setup — costs $195. A higher level — with 250 bags, a digital neighborhood app setup and the opportunity for local sponsor logos on the bags — costs $995, according to the wefeed.us website.