According to the Capital Area Food Bank’s 2022 Hunger Report, 41% of Fairfax County households with children experience food insecurity. Across the U.S. in 2019, 10% of households were, at times, unable to acquire adequate food for one or more household members because they had insufficient money and other resources to purchase food.
When one Fairfax County mom learned of this, it bothered her and spurred her into action. Working as a substitute in her child’s school, she noticed the amount of food that was untouched and was thrown away each day. After attending a night meeting at another school, she saw baskets full of milk, bananas, and carrots that had not been consumed that day and a lightbulb went off: Care to Share was born.
Alisa Brooks, BSN RN, a Public Health Nurse in Maternal Child Health with the Fairfax County Health Department, started as a volunteer with the program and, after the pandemic she was asked to step up to lead it.
Brooks was amazed at how many questions she received from interested schools and organizations across the county who wanted to set up similar programs. In answer to this, she approached the Fairfax Food Council and, together, they established a “how-to” guide and posted it on their website for all to view and use.
The Care to Share toolkit provides important information that anyone interested in starting a program can use to get one set up. Research, organization, communications, and volunteerism are critical to local Care to Share programs. The toolkit is also a component of the Healthy Eating priority of the Live Healthy Fairfax 2019-2023 Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) that calls for the development of a protocol for school lunch donations.
Care to Share is currently active in several sites around Fairfax County, thanks to the collaboration of school and PTA leaders, school nurses and aides, cafeteria staff, and parents. By donating unopened, unwanted perishable as well as non-perishable items, local food banks and food pantries can keep their shelves stocked. Volunteers often include students who are seeking service hours (a requirement for graduation), high school clubs and organizations, along with parents, school personnel and a site food coordinator.
“The more people who have heard about this program, the more interest seems to be growing," said Brooks. “I hope that this toolkit will provide a roadmap for schools or other organizations to help ensure less waste and reduce food insecurity here in our county, towns, and cities where we live, learn, work, and play.”
Questions? Reach out to the Fairfax Food Council.