Fairfax is one of the richest counties in the United States, yet it still faces poverty and hunger. According to the Capital Area Food Bank‘s Hunger Heat Map, an average of 6% of residents in the Herndon-Reston area live with food insecurity, with some pockets of up to 19%. Data from Fairfax County Public Schools is also revelatory: In the Herndon-Reston schools, an average of 35% of students receive free or reduced meals, with some schools providing free reduced meals for up to 81% of their student body.
To address this need, Cornerstones is working with other nonprofit, faith-based organizations, schools and government programs on several fronts to end hunger and address the root causes of poverty and food insecurity. One first step has been the creation of an inventory of supplemental and subsidized food providers in the larger Herndon-Reston area. The purpose of the inventory is twofold: 1) to supply possible food donors with information on where and what to donate, and 2) to point food insecure families and individuals to the programs and places that can address their food needs.
Many residents want to help those in need in their community but do not know where to begin. Thus, one part of the inventory points potential donors in the right direction. It lists fifteen different nonprofit and faith-based organizations that accept food donations. Each organization is listed with the foods that they do and do not accept, in order to reduce food waste and make sure clients receive food that meets their needs. Depending on the donor and the layout of the receiving facility, the size of a donation can vary. Many pantries, due to limited storage space, can only accept a few bags or boxes; others have the space to accept far larger donations. Potential donors can use the inventory to find out which programs are closest to their home or workplace, the days and hours in which donations are accepted, and other factors which might dictate the manner in which a donor plans to make a donation. With the inventory, food donations become easier and more efficient.
The second part of the inventory is for those in need of supplemental food or to find out where they can use food subsidy programs such as the Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP) and the supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). For each organization that provides free supplemental food, this part of the inventory informs the potential recipient of the requirements to be served. Does the recipient need to show an identification and/or proof of residency? How often can a household receive services? Are appointments necessary or are walk-in clients accepted? Many families and individuals facing food insecurity participate in SNAP (food stamps) and/or the WIC program, and this inventory lists all the retailers in the larger Herndon-Reston area who accept SNAP and WIC. For families, it also lists the schools that have weekend backpack programs and food pantries so that those families can rely on the convenience of their children’s school to receive supplemental food.