Food banks across the country continue to face challenges helping those in need during COVID-19.
In partnership with local agencies in Hampton Roads, Virginia, Mercy Chefs is preparing and delivering restaurant quality meals for senior citizens and at-risk kids impacted by the pandemic.
Chef Gary LeBlanc leads the ministry which has served more than two million meals at natural disaster sites across 23 states and eight nations.
"Our hallmark is hot meals, but with this we've been doing the cooking one day and blast chilling and freezing overnight and then packing frozen meals that are then distributed to seniors and shut-ins, so it's been a new thing for us," LeBlanc told CBN News.
It is all part of the initiative called, "Food Plus Faith Equals Hope." The goal is to get 15,000 meals each week to homebound seniors.
Dr. Ruth Jones Nichols oversees the program as part of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore.
"Through this partnership effort we really are relying on our faith-based organizations and communities to come together and really leverage food and faith to inspire hope," said Jones Nichols, president and CEO of the foodbank.
And LeBlanc says this is far from simple fast-food.
"We're doing high quality, hand-crafted, chef-prepared meals," LeBlanc explained. "They're balanced, they're nutritious and they're delicious. They're comfort food."
Campaign co-chair Bishop Courtney McBath of Norfolk's Calvary Revival Church, said the current crisis has created tremendous demand.
"Senior Services and all these wonderful folks have always taken care of folks with meals – Meal on Wheels and those kinds of things. But now the need is just so much greater and finding a way to meet that need was our goal," said McBath.
And that includes demonstrating faith in action.
"I want us to be known for the church that when we were in our greatest need, we took care of people in their greatest need," McBath commented.
The Food Plus Faith Equals Hope initiative officially runs through July 3, although LeBlanc and others plan to keep handing out hope for as long as needed.
"There are some individuals and populations that experience food insecurity throughout the year so, right now we're doing a little bit more for this population but I anticipate that we will need to do even more once we are beyond the pandemic," said Jones Nichols.
"The meal counts are unbelievable," added LeBlanc. "Over 3,000 meals a day. That number keeps going up, every day we add more people to the distribution program."
"We're determined, we're committed that we're gonna stand in as long as we need to," said LeBlanc.