“It’ll take a lifetime to give back all that was given to me,” Sally Latimer said at the start of another busy day at the Monacan Indian Nation Food Bank in central Virginia, which works with the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.
Sally and her staff of four were preparing for a contactless distribution, serving Native American families in their community.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, they served up to 35 families each month. Today, their outreach is ten times that.
When Sally joined the food bank in 2018, she wanted to help her tribe. One in five Native Americans is food insecure, and Monacans, she said, have long been discriminated against in rural Amherst County.
But she also wanted to use the food bank to build community and understanding for everyone. After all, Sally knew what it was like to be hungry.
About a decade earlier, her husband passed away, and she became the sole provider for her young son. The money she made working in childcare wasn’t enough to cover all of their bills.
“There’s a stereotype that people that go to food banks are lazy,” she said. “The majority of the people that we serve are working people.”
As co-director, Sally has found ways to reach her community where they are. She and the staff deliver groceries if someone is sick or doesn’t have a car, and they call clients every week to check in and confirm appointments. They hold dinners for elders and hope to start a hot meals delivery program for low-income neighborhoods.
Sally and her staff want to provide better quality foods to their community. Fruits, vegetables, and meats are the most common request, she said. Recently, they planted a garden and plan to distribute fruits and vegetables, including some traditional Monacan foods like Tutelo strawberry corn and amaranth.
“Every time I hand a bag of food to someone, it’s me giving back just a tiny bit of what was given to me,” she said. “For me, there is no more perfect job.”