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Jessica Hudson

Help Address Increased Hunger in Fairfax County

Read and Feed

Since moving to a fine-free model last year, Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL) has replaced its popular annual “Food for Fines” drive with “Read and Feed.” This April, simply drop off food items at any branch to contribute. Donations will go to Food for Others (FFO) for distribution throughout Fairfax County. 

Experts say donations are needed now more than ever. Inflation means a double-hit for organizations like FFO, said Anna Slaten, FFO’s director of development & outreach. Last summer, donations were down 30% from summer 2021. “With inflation, not just our clients are feeling the effects, but our donors are also,” she said.  

At the same time, demand is increasing.  

FFO provides for about 3,000 families each week and that number is rising, Slaten said. In fiscal year 2022, which ran from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, FFO met community need at over 233,000 distribution points, which include Power Packs with weekend meals for Fairfax County Public Schools students. That number indicated a 28% increase in need from the year prior, Slaten said. 

FFO is serving 44 Fairfax County Public Schools by providing Power Packs to students in need. A total of 3,500 students a week currently receive Power Packs, and FFO has another 13 schools on the waitlist for similar help, Slaten said. 

This January, FFO opened its Choice Marketplace, which allows its clients to select their food items in a grocery store setting. When the marketplace opened on Jan. 23, 330 families came through, Slaten said. 

With pandemic-era SNAP benefits ending, organizations are trying to be as prepared as possible, she said. “Change is constant, so that’s the one thing we are always prepared for. With the uptick we’re expecting in clients, we’re trying to stay prepared,” Slaten said. 

Throughout the month of April, FCPL will be collecting donations of food at all its branches for donation to FFO and other local partners. During the food drive, community members can drop off unexpired, commercially produced food items, new and clean reusable grocery bags and simple kitchen tools, like can openers, to any FCPL branch during regular hours. Donors will receive reusable food tote bags. 

Most needed items include: 

  • Oil 

  • Cereal 

  • Canned tomato products (crushed, peeled, diced, etc.), 4 oz. – 1 lb. 

  • Canned meat (chicken, turkey, or seafood), 2 oz. – 15 oz. 

  • Rice, 16 oz. packages 

  • Spaghetti sauce, 14 oz. – 1 lb. (ideally in cans instead of glass) 

  • Canned fruit (packed in fruit juice instead of syrup) 11 oz. – 20 oz. 

  • Dried or canned beans (black, kidney, pinto, etc.) 

  • Pasta 

  • Fruit juice (100% juice) 32 oz. – 64 oz. 

  • New or clean reusable grocery bags 

  • Can openers 

Food for Others is unable to accept donations of: 

Items that are more than three years expired, opened items, food that is not labeled, homemade items, or cooked food. 

Fairfax Virtual Assistant