The Animal Welfare League (AWL) of the Northern Neck is excited to announce the launch of a new AWL community service, FEED ME, TOO! AWL has a history of feeding local dogs and cats and continues to supply monthly supplemental pet food during AWL thrift shop hours at 75 South Main Street, Kilmarnock, Virginia. Over 100 families participate in this service. Eligibility only requires residency within the 4 counties of the Northern Neck (Lancaster, Northumberland, Richmond and Westmoreland), encompassing 744 square land miles. However, recent events have emboldened the mission.
The COVID-19 pandemic news coverage brought food insecurities to the public forefront daily. Some Northern Neck families are in difficult times and many face hunger. Human food insecurity becomes pet food insecurity for dog and cat family members too. Yes, pets are Family! In response, the AWL sought a more comprehensive approach to providing companion pet food to NN families.
Healthy Harvest Food Bank (HHFB) in Warsaw already addresses family food insecurity in the Northern Neck and Upper Middle Peninsula of Virginia. HHFB proved to be the perfect AWL partner to include dog and cat food for distribution to food pantries. AWL made first contact with Mark Kleinschmidt, President & CEO of HHFB, who immediately proved receptive and encouraging to the idea of AWL sending dog and cat food to the pantries via the food bank’s infrastructure.
Craig Hazzard, HHFB Director of Operations was equally supportive and provided the necessary information and guidance to get this new partnership started.
Many phone calls and emails with wonderful, incredibly dedicated food pantry volunteers resulted in an initial fifteen Northern Neck food pantries (an estimated 400 pet families) actively participating in the new pet food initiative. This resulted in the first delivery of over a ton of dog and cat food among participating pantries during the month of May! AWL will continue to monitor and assess pantry client needs thanks in huge part to the willingness and adaptability of HHFB’s willingness to embrace pet food insecurity as a reality for food pantry clients and the ready commitment to do even more to actively address community needs. The partnership with HHFB put AWL’s FEED ME, TOO! Initiative in a position to directly reach out to many of the area’s most vulnerable neighbors through their churches and local organizations.
The response from the pantry clients themselves for the inclusion of pet food at their pantries has been overwhelming. Many directly depend on their dogs and cats for companionship and comfort and often refer to them as their children. There are stories of clients at the end of pantry hours looking for leftovers to feed their animals and others confide that they share their pantry food with their pets because they have nothing else to feed them. AWL is incredibly grateful to HHFB for the unique opportunity of FEED ME, TOO! to fulfill the mission of providing pet food to hungry animals.