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Richmond hot meal program for homeless reaches grim milestone

The Richmond Food Aid Delivery Coalition has now delivered more than 50,000 hot meals to the city's "entrenched" population
St. Alban's weekend sandwich crew preparing sandwich lunches for Richmond's chronic homeless population.

A group of anti-poverty advocates in Richmond has just passed an incredible – and thought-provoking – milestone.

For the last six years, the Richmond Food Aid Delivery (FAD) Coalition has been preparing and delivering hot meals to the city’s “entrenched” homeless population.

And just recently, FAD delivered its 50,000th meal to someone living in a bush or under a bridge in Richmond.

The coalition is made up of volunteers from several local faith organizations, including St. Alban’s, Gilmore Park United and Church on Five, each of whom provide hundreds of community meals throughout the week.

It’s those meals - along with generous donations from the Richmond Food Bank and from restaurant Pepper Lunch – that are delivered five days a week by outreach worker Hugh Freiberg who, in turn, is funded by the local Salvation Army.

The fact that FAD has reached such a number is less of a cause for celebration, according to its co-chair De Whalen, and is more of a realization that the need is still there and is growing all the time.

“COVID has only made it worse and the lack of affordable housing, as well,” Whalen told the Richmond News.

“We’ve went from serving 30 people a night to 35 in the last year or so. Sometimes our outreach worker finds more than that.

“These are just the street entrenched homeless; the people living under a bridge or in a bush, wherever he can find them.

“If he runs out of meals, he has cards for McDonald’s or wherever that he can hand out.”

Whalen said Freiberg would be out there seven nights a week if FAD let him, adding that he needs his rest as well.

“Pepper Lunch has also been amazing; they came to the shelter one night and asked if we needed food,” added Whalen.

“Now they donate food Mondays and Fridays. They’re so generous.”

Whalen said federal COVID funding for the homeless, to the tune of $50,000 to $60,000 over the last year has been vital in the program being able to keep up with demand.

Whalen said anyone wanting to help and/or donate to the program can email [email protected].