Richmond’s hygiene pantries offer free essential items
When Cory Jones was growing up, if he needed an essential item, he could always rely on his community.
“We had a neighborhood that if I didn't have anything, I had neighbors, I had aunts, I had uncles and everyone would just chip in to make sure you had everything you needed,” Jones said. “As I got older, I didn't realize that some of the things I had came from my community.”
Jones believes that essential items should be accessible through community aid, so he founded the nonprofit Feed the Streets RVA.
“Our mission is to create a community of response to the basic needs of all while addressing symptoms of poverty,” Jones told VPM News.
As Jones and the Feed the Streets RVA team looked across their community, they wanted to create a standalone site that was accessible 24/7 and directly helped people in need. That’s how the hygiene pantry first came to life.
The first pantry opened in April 2022 in Church Hill behind Mount Olivet Church. A second pantry recently opened in the heart of Gilpin Court.
A hygiene pantry is a standalone nook that has several compartments filled with essential items from toothpaste to shampoo to COVID-19 tests — all things that are necessary to an individual’s well-being, Jones said.
Jones said one of the most alarming things he’s learned through his work with the nonprofit is that 1 in 4 people in Richmond live below the poverty line.
“How are we living amongst that many people [below] the poverty line? Even in our everyday lives, we [can] count it off in school, you [can] count one out of every four people living below the poverty line,” Jones said.
Inflation hasn’t made things any better for struggling Richmond residents.
“The rising cost of items is a huge problem in our community. We hear directly from people all the time through social media [outreach], ‘Hey, I need this, I need that.’ Because hygiene is, like we say, it's [an] essential need. We've identified it as an essential need for all people. So, we don't judge anyone who's in need of it,” Jones said.
The items inside the Feed the Streets RVA hygiene pantries are completely free. Jones said that people shouldn’t be prevented from having their needs met just because they can’t afford them.
The hygiene pantry nooks are one-stop shops.
“You don't have to think about it. You don't have to budget for it. You don't have to say, ‘Hey, you know, my personal hygiene is getting low, I don't have the means to go get it,’” Jones said. “All you have to do is come on down to 1223 North 25th Street, grab what you can. If you have a surplus of items, leave what you can.”
Feed the Streets RVA has two hygiene stations in the Richmond area.
Church Hill hygiene pantry: Located behind Mount Olivet Church, 1223 North 25th St.
Gilpin Court hygiene pantry: Located at the Charles S. Gilpin Community Farm, 1420 Peter St.
To connect with the organization, you can email [email protected].