WINCHESTER — Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the all-volunteer Highland Food Pantry in Winchester is busier than ever.

The pantry provides free food to local families in need during weekly distributions held on Tuesday mornings and evenings. The longer the pandemic goes on, General Manager Jenny Callis said, the more need the pantry sees.

"We had a truck yesterday and thought it would last three weeks," Callis said on Tuesday as she pointed to an empty space inside the pantry that had been stacked high when the day began.

In just two-and-a-half hours Tuesday morning, Highland Food Pantry handed out more than 200 boxes of free meat, produce, fresh fruit, vegetables, cereal, bread and other food items to 72 families. When the distribution ended, more than two dozen volunteers immediately began preparing for an equally busy giveaway from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday evening.

"We have a solid group of volunteers that has been faithful through all of this," said Vicki Laird, a board member at Highland Food Pantry. "A lot of us are older, but we also have high school kids that help. It's a lot of work."

Laird said the food distribution center at 446 Highland Ave., in the basement of Highland Memorial Presbyterian Church, has managed to keep its cupboards stocked throughout the pandemic even as local needs increased.

"The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank has been wonderful," she said about the Verona-based agency that helps feed low-income residents of the Shenandoah Valley.

Laird also praised local farmers and orchardists, as well as area businesses and private citizens, for making food and monetary donations to keep the pantry running smoothly.

Getting the food from the pantry to the people who need it is a labor-intensive effort that requires dozens of volunteers. Food is delivered to the facility on Sundays and Mondays, and given away by the boxfuls on Tuesday mornings and evenings. Since clients are no longer allowed inside the pantry because of the pandemic, items are carefully selected for them by volunteers and pushed up a conveyor belt from the church's basement to the street outside.

"It's stuff everybody can use," Laird said. "Chickens, hams, turkeys — we've been blessed to have plenty of food."

There are no eligibility requirements for the giveaways, Callis said. Anyone in need is welcome to pick up food from the pantry once a month during its weekly distributions.

COVID-19 has forced the pantry to find new ways to sustain itself. Laird said its biggest annual fundraiser, Men on a Mission, will not be held this November.

"We thought it prudent with everything going on to cancel the event," she said. "However, we're still taking donations."

Laird said what the pantry needs most right now is cash that can be used to buy food in bulk at a substantial discount from the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank network.

"We are fortunate to have such a generous community that steps up for the cause," she said.

"We've been able to stay in business, stay healthy and keep our clients healthy," Callis added. "That's a lot to be grateful for."

For more information or to make a donation to the Highland Food Pantry, visit its website at

— Contact Brian Brehm at

(26) comments

Bernie Mac

Geez people, it was only one comment.

Spock Here

And like most of your comments it was just plain nasty

Bernie Mac

Says the man that regularly spews lies and hate.


Well, it was about a charity that isn't run by government socialism. I support charities that rely on community members generosity rather than government taxes (like those stupid Obama Phones). Obviously, this charity does check up on the folks that rely on it to make sure they are on the up and up, unlike government programs that promise free stuff for lazy ingrates and illegal aliens.


Another @Conservative fail...

The "Obama phone" program was actually put in to action by the Reagan Administration and was modified under Bush and Obama.

So do you want to revise that statement?

Bernie Mac

According to Democrats, every stupid idea ever put out by a Democrat originated under a Republican. They try to pull this with slavery too.

Doc Samson

@Bernie - It's the "One degree of Trump" game! All things can be blamed directly on Trump, dontchaknow? Leftists... [rolleyes][lol]

Doc Samson

Or, I guess I should've been less specific, one degree of (fill in a conservativ/Repulican here)...


Oh shut up, goat Boy.

Bernie Mac

Very immature.


So is your constant and inane trolling. Get some integrity, goat boy.

Ann Gibson

Vivian, don't put any value on what the anonymous people behind these negative comments say. It's not worth your time. You did such important work for people who are truly in need. Be proud as I'm sure you are!

Vivian Walker

The comments above are just rude! I volunteered at the Highland Food Pantry in the past for a long time and one of the biggest lessons I learned was to not be judgmental. You do not know their story or what has forced them to seek assistance. The requirement for someone to complete an application for assistance was eliminated several years ago and these volunteers are doing the best they can with the resources they have. If you can’t donate/volunteer or even request a tour to see how things are managed than whatever negativity you feel the need to share you should just mind your business! These clients could be someone you know and care about that are too ashamed to reach out to you for help because they already know where you stand.


If Blondie would do a little research on the subject she'd learn that applicants for assistance are screened to make sure they meet poverty guidelines. Food is not handed out indiscriminately. To suggest as much is both ignorant and insulting to the volunteers and managers.


Maybe it would last longer if it was given to people who really need it instead of people pulling up in new vehicles.

Spock Here

How dare they have a new car! geez louise, our own little Karen


Um, what?

Wait a minute, how many shifts have you worked, o anonymous one?


You need to apologize for that one. Hard times can blindside anyone at anytime. Places like these exist because people like us don't want the government in charge, they mess up everything.


Don't tell me about hard times; I have been there many times. But, you know what, I drive a twenty year old vehicle and I support myself. Things like this do happen and you have to be aware of that fact and plan for it. My car is paid off and I can buy my own food. Learn to live within your means.

Spock Here

Well bully for you, Ms. Judge and Jury


I struggle, too. It doesn't mean I get to look at people in a new looking car with disdain when they ask for help.

Get over yourself.

Doc Samson

@Blondie - As you should well know, the only one's who are worthy of "judging" are the Leftists. Be interesting to see someone pull up in a brand new pickup, with Trump flags flying, and see what kind of reception they got at the food line... because, you know, no one knows their situation. [lol]

Doc Samson

@Blondie - I agree that it can be a little frustrating, wanting to give to those who are truly in need, only to have someone pull up in a vehicle that costs more than most of us could ever afford. Giving indiscriminately will always result in people taking advantage which means LESS for those who truly do need it. Of course, imposing ANY kind of "judgement" that the Left disapproves of will only result in them denigrating you as a person, regardless of how you actually live your life...

Spock Here

Pssst: I don't think everyone critical of the judgmental comment was a "leftist". Just sayin. Note to self: If spouse and I lose our jobs suddenly and unexpectedly don't drive up to the food bank in that new car we bought last year after we both got promotions and raises because it would cost more to repair our 20 year old car than to get a new one. And lord, let us remember to not shower. Wear dirty clothes. Smell. Knock a few of our teeth out. What is with you kooks anyway?

Doc Samson

"If spouse and I lose our jobs suddenly and unexpectedly don't drive up to the food bank in that new car we bought last year after we both got promotions and raises because it would cost more to repair our 20 year old car than to get a new one."

Ah, sure. Is that possible? Of course. But 20-40 percent of recipients? Yeah, okay...


Spock Here

OH, I didn't realize you were actually counting the recipients doc! You really do have too much time on your hands..... Conservative said it best: "You need to apologize for that one. Hard times can blindside anyone at anytime. " You also insulted the two ladies who volunteer and posted, but no matter to you, right?

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