Even though Fairfax County is one of the richest areas in the United States, many children here suffer significant hunger! In Northern Virginia, 1 in 6 children is at risk of or experiencing hunger, and 1 in 5 public school students is eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Some children look forward to coming to school, not just to study and learn, but to eat free breakfast and lunch!
But what do these children eat on weekends? Assistance League of Northern Virginia started our Weekend Food for Kids program in 2010 to provide supplemental food to children over the weekend when school meals are not available. Thanks to substantial support from Dominion Energy-Virginia and other generous donors and grantors, Assistance League has been able to provide bags of nonperishable food items that enable children to come to school on Mondays ready to learn and achieve their full potential. Our members, along with volunteers from Dominion Energy and other business and community volunteers, have participated in monthly gatherings at Dominion Energy’s facility in Herndon to pack the bags of food. Before the pandemic we were able to deliver Weekend Food for Kids bags to children at six Title 1 elementary schools in Fairfax and Prince William Counties and the city of Alexandria.
After schools closed due to the pandemic in March 2020, we began providing grocery store gift cards instead of weekend food bags to children living in food-insecure households. Because of the severe impact of the pandemic, we expanded gift card distribution to include the summer months. Since schools closed in 2020, we have provided more than 9,100 grocery store gift cards valued at more than $172,000 to families at our schools.
As of February 2022 we have resumed packing monthly food bags. With our well-organized assembly line process, we are able to pack 1,660 bags in about an hour. We have now begun providing one school with monthly gift cards, bringing the total schools served to seven. We will be distributing grocery gift cards to all seven schools over the summer months.