Local food banks and food-assistance groups need your donations, organizers say.
“This is our neediest time of year,” said Roxanne Rice, executive director of Fairfax-based nonprofit Food for Others, which distributed 2.3 million pounds of food locally from July 2012 to June 2013. “This is the time of year that we have the least amount of food in our warehouse due to many people taking vacations and generally just not donating as much.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans throw away more than 25 percent of the food they prepare, about 96 billion pounds of food waste each year.
The Capital Area Food Bank in Lorton states on its website that in the metro Washington, D.C., area, there are nearly 700,000 individuals at risk of hunger, nearly 150,000 of which are children. Those same statistics state that in Fairfax County — ranked second nationally for highest median household income — more than 7 percent, or 76,000 people, are considered “food insecure,” meaning that they don’t know where their next nutritional meal will be coming from.
According to Amanda Andere, executive director of Fairfax-based nonprofit FACETS, poverty is alive and well in Fairfax County.
“Many residents have to make decisions between putting food on the table and paying rent,” she said. “For the more than 1,500 people who are homeless in the county, hunger is a stark and scary reality. Hunger and good nutrition, as well as access to food and the means to cook it, are daily issues for people who are homeless.”
Fairfax County is also seeing a slight increase in the number of residents who qualify for benefits under the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, according to Amy Carlini, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Department of Family Services. As of July 2013, 26,829 Fairfax County households received SNAP benefits monthly. “In July of last year, that figure was 25,481,” Carlini said.
Some local food assistance organizations are seeing double-digit increases in need, according to Rice of Food for Others.
“We are seeing a huge increase right now for some reason that we don’t quite understand,” Rice said. “We had a 23 percent increase in people coming to us in July and August of this year when compared to those same months last year. We are not sure why. Perhaps the working poor are just finding it more difficult to keep up.”
Some area churches that provide food assistance, like St. Anthony of Padua in Falls Church, receive weekly food donations from local restaurants.
“We get food donations every week from the Red Lobster in Fairfax,” said Ubaldo Cisneros, a social minister with the church that runs its food assistance program. “It makes people very happy to receive lobster, steak and shrimp, and anyone is welcome.”
Fabio Pennella, general manager of the Fairfax Red Lobster, says the restaurant gives between 10 to 20 pounds of surplus food a week to St. Anthony’s through the Food Donation Collection, a Tennessee-based company that links commercial food vendors with local charities in need.
“It helps everyone,” said Jim Larson, program development director of Food Donation Collection.
“We seek out local charities and vet them for our clients, determine their needs, then usually set up one-on-one connections to keep the food donations local, ensuring the food is staying close. We then track the donations so the donors can assess a tax value on their donations, and the charities can verify what they have received.”
Larson said that any interested local area food vendors can go to www.foodtodonate.com to learn more about how the program works.