Who’s Hungry? King William County families facing food insecurity turn to CornerStone

There are consequences related to food insecurity. Studies show that hunger and health are deeply intertwined. When people don’t have enough healthy foods to eat it can take a toll on their wellbeing.

The lack of nutritious and affordable food is even more problematic for families living in rural communities with limited food options. In King William County, a food bank has become a cornerstone for families looking to supplement their food supply.


KEYRIS MANZANARES: Just off Route 360, this food bank has become a cornerstone for over 600 families living in King William County. Sheila Iswariah, who’s from India, has been helping run the food bank since its creation in 2000. When she immigrated to Virginia, she was shocked to discover that one in 12 people don’t have enough food to eat.

SHEILA ISWARIAH: Our perspective from outside of the country was that this is one wealthy nation and people always had enough. But when we came here it was a complete surprise to us because of what we saw.

KEYRIS MANZANARES: Every Saturday morning, cars line up waiting for their turn to drive up and receive boxes filled with veggies, fruits, desserts and meats.

SHEILA ISWARIAH: So, when we first came here, there wasn’t even a Food Lion. There wasn’t a grocery store. We had to go all the way into Richmond for ourselves to shop. The county next door does not have a grocery store.

KEYRIS MANZANARES: People in this area of rural Virginia struggle to find affordable and healthy foods. They live in what’s called a food desert.

SHEILA ISWARIAH: Families appreciate every little bit they get. It does — what we’ve always told them is that this is a supplemental box.

KEYRIS MANZANARES: The food at CornerStone comes from federal and local donations, and partnerships with nonprofits like Feed More. Alice Elizabeth Fortune has been coming to CornerStone for over 15 years.

ALICE ELIZABETH FORTUNE: The food is so high in the store. And then when you — if you’re on disability and fixed income, you just don’t have enough. And this place is a blessing for that. Because even though you don’t have to have it in the store, but you know you come here, you’ll be taken care of.

KEYRIS MANZANARES: Eddie Oliver, with the Virginia Federation of Food Banks, says the number one driver of food insecurity is poverty.

EDDIE OLIVER: Rural areas face a lot of challenges. Obviously, transportation is chief among them. It could be 20, 30 miles to get to a grocery store. And so pantries like CornerStone are often the only real lifeline for low-income families in these communities who don’t have anywhere else to turn.

KEYRIS MANZANARES: In 2022, nearly 11% of Virginia’s population lived below the poverty line. And as inflation continues to affect everyone, the Virginia Federation of Food Banks expects more Virginians to be hungry.

EDDIE OLIVER: Families are facing so many higher costs. Childcare costs are through the roof. Grocery costs are double digit percentage increases over the last several years. Rent has gone up quite a bit since the pandemic. And families have to prioritize those things, or they lose them. You have to pay your rent, or you’ll get evicted. You have to make that car payment, or you lose your car. You have to pay for childcare, or you lose that opportunity. Food is often the thing that gets sacrificed because of that.

KEYRIS MANZANARES: Back at CornerStone, the line continues steady. And most will be back next Saturday for another box.

ALICE ELIZABETH FORTUNE: Different people, put it that way, comes here. All different colors. I mean everybody that need help, old and the young. And I’ll tell you this, CornerStone and Sheila is a blessing to the county.

KEYRIS MANZANARES: Reporting for VPM News. I’m Keyris Manzanares.

Reporters Note: If you live in King William County or surrounding areas and are in need of food assistance, registering at CornerStone is simple. All you need to do is attend a food distribution event on Saturday morning. As you wait in line, you will be registered and able to pick up a supplementary box.

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