Nonprofit mobile food pantry is on the move

With the county’s support, the Henrico Community Food Bank delivers food to thousands

Every day across Henrico County, volunteers drop off fresh produce, meat, bread and other grocery staples to residents who struggle with hunger.

A resident who lives alone considers them a part of her family.

“She tells us to call her Grammy,” said Sudeshna Das-Menezes, founder and executive director of the Henrico Community Food Bank.

“Making deliveries allows us to develop relationships with clients and understand why they are in those situations.”

Before establishing the food bank in 2021, Das-Menezes led programs and worked with volunteers at Feed More, central Virginia’s food bank, for 16 years.

“Every experience at Feed More laid the groundwork for this,” she said.

She and her husband, Floyd, launched the nonprofit serving Henrico out of their house with a mission to provide access to nutritious food in an equitable and dignified manner to those in need.

The couple made the first delivery in July 2022.

About 30,000 residents spread throughout the county struggle with hunger, Das-Menezes said.

“Food is such a basic need, like clothing and shelter, but food comes first,” said Das-Menezes, who presented a case study and five-year plan with Henrico officials.

The county provided seed money and administrative space in the former MathScience Innovation Center, which is shared by the Henrico Police Athletic League, on Hartman Street in the Central Gardens neighborhood.

Volunteers unload fresh produce at the Henrico Community Food Bank.

“The site is now a community hub with two nonprofits that are meeting the needs of the community,” said Monica Smith-Callahan, Henrico’s deputy county manager for community affairs. “It’s a win-win for all of us to be in this partnership.”

The food bank also is backed by volunteers, community groups, faith-based organizations and corporate partners.

In the space, shelves are stocked with peanut butter, pasta, cereal and canned foods. Refrigerators are full of chicken, milk and produce. Volunteers sort items and fill bags for delivery.

Unlike traditional pantries where food can be picked up only on certain days, the food bank is a mobile resource that is accessible every day for Henrico residents.

“We are emergency assistance, but we are not on demand, and we are not a grocery store,” Das-Menezes said.

Calls for assistance come from families, single parents, seniors on limited incomes and refugees across the county. Some require short-term help, while others need long-term assistance.

“We add three or four new clients a day. Nobody is immune,” she said. “Any of us, at any time, could be in those situations.”

Clients share specific needs and allergies through the intake process, which helps prevent food waste. Every household receives two bags filled with perishable and nonperishable foods to make meals at home.

“In our research, we realized that transportation was the single biggest challenge,” Das-Menezes said. “Delivery is such a critical need.”

Volunteers prepare bags of food for delivery to Henrico residents.

Every month, the nonprofit serves about 300 households benefitting 1,000 individuals.

“Our staff and volunteers are on the road daily, traveling the length and breadth of Henrico County serving our residents, and the need isn’t going down anytime soon,” she said.

The food bank projects it will have served more than 10,000 individuals by December.

“Repurposing our current spaces and securing funding remain significant,” Das-Menezes said. “We have grown exponentially. We want to live up to what we said we will give our clients. We want to meet their needs.”

In the spring, Walmart in Short Pump donated 50 bags of soil, plants and seeds for the food bank to start a vegetable and herb garden outside its administrative offices. The Henrico Division of Recreation & Parks donated mulch.

Sudeshna Das-Menezes, founder and executive director of the Henrico Community Food Bank, stands in the Community Garden located outside its administrative offices.

Youth volunteers planted the garden, which is now flourishing with tomatoes, squash and eggplants.

“It was such a huge gift,” said Das-Menezes, who plans to give the vegetables to clients. “In keeping with the growth, we hope our on-site community garden becomes a permanent fixture on the premises year-round.”

AJ Soltan, general manager at Walmart, said the store wanted to do something to help the community.

“This garden is not only good for today, but it’s good for the future,” he said. “I’ll never stop connecting with the food bank and being a part of this. It’s a great feeling.”

“To have Walmart make a commitment to the food bank as they continue to grow is just phenomenal,” Smith-Callahan said. “How things have worked out is meant to be.”

To learn more about sponsoring a mobile distribution, hosting a food or fund drive or volunteering at the food bank, visit

Henrico residents in need of food assistance can call (804) 549-6609 or email [email protected].

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