Cyclists to Log Miles for Meals During Tour de Virginia

The Williamsburg Winery’s inaugural Tour de Virginia is gearing up to be a memorable experience for cyclists and not just because of the scenery, though that is special, too.


The four-day event through the historical Virginia countryside from Sept. 23-26 will include fun-filled evenings in Richmond, Farmville and Petersburg featuring local food and Williamsburg Winery wine. The ride culminates with an after-party back at the start line at the Williamsburg Winery in the middle of Wessex Hundred, the 400-acre farm with ample open fields and 150 acres of woods.


Cyclists can feel good that they are part of Miles for Meals, which will raise money for Williamsburg Area Meals on Wheels. The nonprofit prepares and delivers freshly prepared daily meals to vulnerable adults, families and children in the Williamsburg area.


Every 12 miles each registered cyclist logs equates to one hot, nutritious meal to a community member in need. Register here.


The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the need for more meals in the community and the organization’s executive director, Cathie Upton, doesn’t expect the number to tick downward. Ever.


“We’ve been told that our country will be at the highest point of needing food by 2025,” Upton says. “We’ve been told over the last few years we need to be prepared.”


Food prices are on the rise. So are the numbers of people needing food.


Since March 15, 2020, volunteers have delivered more than 100,000 meals to individuals in Williamsburg and Jamestown. These are people who would otherwise go hungry. That number is more than double the amount of meals typically delivered in an entire year. That puts an obvious strain on the organization’s budget.


Miles for Meals and fundraisers like it are critical to respond to the growing need.


The Williamsburg Winery has a history of giving back to support the health and wellness of community members.


Simon Smith, Vice President of Food and Beverage at the winery is also co-chair of the Williamsburg Area Meals On Wheels Board. The winery partnered twice with the nonprofit on Foodapalooza, a festival of taste from Hampton Roads’ best chefs, that raised approximately $60,000 over the two years. The pandemic forced the cancellation of that event last year and this year.


Miles for Meals will help fill that important void.


“It’s very dear to my heart to give back to the community and this partnership seemed like the right thing to do,” Smith says.


The national Meals on Wheels organization dates back to 1974 and provides meals to anyone with a physical or mental impairment — typically an elderly population choosing to age in place.


“The funds raised by this event and any event go to subsidizing the cost of the meals because most of our clients can’t afford the cost,” Upton says. “We fluctuate between 80and 86% needing subsidies.”


Meals, averaging $5 apiece, have grown healthier and even more colorful. Homemade meatloaf with potatoes and carrots with fresh fruit and milk is an example. Over the Independence Day weekend, Williamsburg Area Meals on Wheels delivered beef and tomato pasta with Italian blended vegetables and a cold bag with fresh fruit, chicken salad and a homemade roll.


Williamsburg Area Meals on Wheels didn’t halt delivery during the pandemic. Masked and gloved volunteers left meals on doorsteps and knocked on doors or rang bells stepping back when they opened for social distancing. That didn’t allow them to engage in the usual chitchat with the largely senior population that received them, but they were able leave four times more the amount of shelf staple food to get folks through a weekend.


“We also delivered to children that were out of school during COVID and would have been on the free lunch program, and we met them where they were at,” Upton says. “The first priority was children living in hotels and then children living in Section 8 housing.”


They nonprofit was also forced to alter its way of doing things when its caterer could no longer support the contract.


Since March 1, 2021, Williamsburg Area Meals on Wheels has prepared all its hot and bagged meals with the help of volunteers in newly leased kitchen space at the Williamsburg Indoor Sports Complex.


“The wonderful thing about having your own kitchen is we know everything that comes in the door, so everything is fresh or frozen fresh, so it’s very green,” Upton says. “When we’re developing the meal, we look at color. If we have a light color pasta, we add a nice bright vegetable. Part of eating is how it looks and what you see when you first take the top off.”


Williamsburg Area Meals on Wheels is grateful to the Williamsburg Winery for its continued partnership and for finding a new way to give during unprecedented times.


“We work to break the cycle of hunger,” Upton says. “So now we’re bringing in bikes. Pretty cool.”

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