Rockbridge Area Transportation System Provides Warm Meals and Support

  • Author: William Wagner
  • Date: April 6, 2023

Grilled lamb with eggplants, bell peppers, onions, and sweet potato ratatouille served over a bed of rice are not typically thought of as “tools” used by mobility management practitioners. In Rockbridge County Virginia, however, this is one of many gourmet dishes being prepared and served to help county residents not only receive a delicious meal, but also gain access to other identified quality of life needs.

Rockbridge County is a county in the Shenandoah Valley on the western edge of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The county encompasses two cities: Lexington and Buena Vista, but it is primarily rural.

Rockbridge Area Transportation System (RATS) joined forces with The Community Table (TCT) to offer transportation to weekly community meals being served at eight rotating locations throughout the county on Wednesday evenings.  During these gourmet prepared meals, residents can learn about other resources available in the county and can receive referrals to these services.

Federal Transit Administration funding from the National Center for Mobility Management’s Innovative Mobility Solutions grant is allowing residents of the county to call and schedule a ride to the weekly community meal. The idea for this initiative came from needs identified in the 2021 Rockbridge Area Community Health Assessment. One of those needs is assistance for rural residents without transportation who have difficulty accessing services in the county.

Following conversations with Live Healthy Rockbridge, The Portable Area Community Table (PACT) initiative has come to fruition. The Community Table is a community collaboration with RATS as the lead organization and TCT and Carilion Clinic as essential partner organizations. The group recognizes that collaborating with community partners enables them to improve the reach and effectiveness of the services provided by each of the individual organizations and provides an opportunity for other community services as well.

Those coming for the free meal will be surveyed at each meal to identify needed or desired services for their area. Data from the surveys will be shared with this Advisory Committee and Mobility Manager to identify and share needs collected through this project.

The primary goals of this project are reducing social isolation and food insecurity. The project also hopes to work with individuals to address their specific needs and improve quality of life by increasing access to other services for county residents. By listening to people in each area of the county the group hopes to learn about both the needs as well as strengths or assets, in order to find how they can best match their services with other community organizations’ existing strengths. 


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