Two Fairfax County organizations received grants from a national nonprofit to increase access to food service programs for children and their families.
Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center and Cornerstones in Reston both received grants from No Kid Hungry, a campaign by the national nonprofit Save Our Strength, whose mission is to end hunger and poverty. poverty.
No Kid Hungry announced on July 26 that it has distributed $ 1.16 million in grants to more than 30 school districts and organizations in Virginia to address food insecurity and provide better access to food for children and families.
Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center received $ 25,000 and Cornerstones received $ 30,000.
“We are thrilled to get the grant and happy to help families in ways that we might not otherwise be able to,” said Renee Boyle, director of development at Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center.
Located at 7230 Idylwood Road, the Children’s Center offers early childhood education, as well as an after-school child care program specifically for students at Lemon Road Elementary School in Falls Church.
Boyle says the center will share the grant money with the Seven Corners Children’s Center, a preschool in Falls Church.
$ 15,000 will be used to provide low-income families at both centers with grocery cards that can be used at their discretion. This way, children and their families, including parents and older siblings, can have easier access to food even outside of school walls, Boyle says.
“Often it can be difficult to get to school to buy food, or [the kids] don’t go to kindergarten, ”she said. “This allows [families] to buy fruits, vegetables and meats of their choice and reflects their ethnic preferences.
The remaining $ 10,000 will be used to contract Good Food Company in Arlington to provide high quality breakfasts at the center. They provide meals full of fresh vegetables, protein, and healthy options, Boyle says.
“The menu varies daily and these are higher quality meals than the county public schools,” she said.
Cornerstones – a non-profit organization that provides assistance with food, shelter, childcare and other basic needs – uses its grant to rent an outdoor storage unit to expand its childcare program – eat, pay the costs of installing offsite storage, and buy a new van. to deliver fresh food to households in need, says CEO Kerrie Wilson.
Food insecurity remains a huge challenge in the DC region. About 1% of residents in several pockets of Reston, Vienna, Tysons and Herndon were food insecure in 2020, according to research from the Capital Area Food Bank.
According to No Kid Hungry, one in eight children under the age of 18 lives in a household where they may not have enough to eat.
“If it weren’t for the free meals offered by schools and community organizations, that number would be much higher,” said Sarah Steely, associate director of No Kid Hungry Virginia.
Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center Executive Director Lucy Pelletier says existing food access problems have been exacerbated by the pandemic due in large part to job uncertainty.
“We find that our families are in very varied states of employment recovery,” Pelletier said in a statement. “Our parents who are restaurant waiters are exhausted from all their overtime because restaurants cannot hire enough employees. Parents in other direct service jobs such as housekeeping work either less than pre-pandemic levels due to covid customer fears, or they travel further to fill their schedules with ready families to accept housekeepers in their homes. “
Rising food prices also mean paychecks aren’t going as far as they used to be, she added.
Food insecurity also has a disproportionate impact on communities of color and immigrants. Cornerstones reports that around 70% of the people it serves are people of color and 40% are children, half of whom identify as a member of a minority or immigrant community.
The nonprofit interviewed some of the residents it works with and found that food stability remains an immediate and huge concern.
“Food stability is a top priority and a source of stress for themselves and their families,” Wilson said. “Concerns about access to healthy and adequate food and nutrition were significantly higher among respondents who identified as people of color and immigrants. “
Community organizations like Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center and Cornerstones are essential in ensuring children have enough healthy food to eat, as they can provide access outside of schools, especially during summer vacation and winter.
“These meal programs work with nutrition programs like Pandemic EBT and SNAP to ensure children have enough to eat,” Steely said via email. “We know summer can be the hungriest time of the year for children and families in the Commonwealth and beyond.”
Photo via Melissa Bélanger / Unsplash