Cornerstones operates the largest and most accessible food pantry in northwest Fairfax County. The Assistance Services and Pantry Program (ASAPP) has, on average, over 10,000 pounds of food available on any given day, stored at its pantry and off-site storage units. It also has infant formula, diapers and wipes, dog and cat food, and miscellaneous personal toiletry items available for distribution. It is the only pantry in the Reston/Herndon area that is open five day a week, eight hours a day (except a half-day on Fridays) and a half-day one Saturday per month.
In FY 2015 approximately one in ten Reston/ Herndon community members needed at least one critical service from ASAPP to maintain stability.
In addition to providing food and toiletries, ASAPP provides clothing vouchers for new and gently used clothing, rent and utility assistance, snacks for other Cornerstones programs and for Herndon area schools, matching dollars for SNAP beneficiaries to use at the Reston Farmers Market, holiday assistance with food and gifts, ESL classes, health and nutrition workshops, information and referrals to other programs (internal or external to Cornerstones) serving clients’ needs, and a Services Navigation program to counsel/coach clients requesting one-on-one assistance beyond a simple referral.
These basic needs supports are paired with an active involvement, locally and county-wide, in food provider networking and food policy issues. Cornerstones is a founding member of the Fairfax Food Providers Network (FPN) which was formed in 2010 to provide a venue for area food banks and pantries to learn from each other and create opportunities for coordination among providers. Cornerstones is currently co-chairing the FNP, which meets every two months and is supported by Fairfax County’s Office of Public Private Partnerships and the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services.
Cornerstones is also convening on a monthly basis the Herndon Food Network (HFN), a very new coalition group (since January 2016) whose charge is to work collectively to engage families and organizations in the Herndon area around student hunger. This charge includes establishing sustainable sources of supplemental food in the schools and other community venues year-round, and through this process, identifying co-existing needs with the students/families and connecting them with appropriate resources. The HFN is surveying schools in the Herndon pyramid about their awareness of, response to, and resources for student hunger in their schools, in order to develop a proposal to address identified gaps.
Finally, Cornerstones is an active participant in the Fairfax Food Council, which was launched in 2015, and is currently co-chairing the Council’s Food Access Working Group. The Food Council facilitates community partnerships and efforts to promote healthy eating. Its Food Access group is working to develop innovative initiatives to increase the number of healthy food access points in the areas of highest need in Fairfax County. It is currently looking at ways to encourage wider acceptance of SNAP benefits in communities of need, as well as how to establish a clearer regulatory path for individuals or entities wanting to establish farmers or mobile markets in Fairfax County.
For more information about the Herndon Food Network, or Cornerstones’ food resources, please contact Bill.Threlkeld@cornerstonesva.org.