Hunger and homelessness are not new problems in our community or nation, but these issues are top of mind of as the holidays and cold weather approach.
Each year, the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger designate the week prior to Thanksgiving as National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
Food insecurity impacts more than 60,000 people in Fairfax County, according to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization.
And according to the 2023 Point in Time Count, 1,310 people were unhoused in the county.
Hunger and Homelessness in Fairfax County
Food insecurity affects our most vulnerable populations:
- Just under 60,000 children qualifying for free and reduced meals in Fairfax County Public Schools.
- Monthly caseload of more than 15,000 participants in the Women, Infants and Children Program.
- More than 1,000 people served through the Meals on Wheels Program.
- Approximately 55,000 SNAP recipients in Fairfax County.
The Capital Area Food Bank’s 2023 Hunger Report reveals multiple and compounding factors that have driven food insecurity to remain at high levels. Inequitable economic recovery from the pandemic, inflation and the end of many federal benefit programs make it difficult for families to put food on the table. According to the Capital Area Food Bank Survey, it’s estimated that 24% of Fairfax County residents are food insecure.
The Fairfax Food Council, Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax County Government and a network of over 100 nonprofit and faith communities help raise awareness and provide food and support to residents who are impacted.
Homelessness numbers have increased:
The 2023 Point in Time Count homelessness numbers represent an increase of 26 percent from 1,041 in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and up 36 percent from a historical low of 964 in 2017’s count.
- The biggest increase is in the number of people residing in emergency shelters. Five years ago, 686 people were in shelter, but this increased 53 percent to 1,049 people in the latest Point in Time Count.
- 43% of people experiencing homelessness in the latest count were under the age of 24, including 463 children.
How to Get Help
There are many resources available to support those who need food assistance:
- Call Coordinated Services Planning for assistance at 703-222-0880.
- Apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides funds that can be used like cash to buy eligible food items from authorized retailers.
- Sign up for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a supplemental food program for pregnant, postpartum or nursing women, infants or children under five years of age.
- Request Meals on Wheels delivery for older adults who would like meals in their home.
- Apply for Free and Reduced Cost meals with FCPS.
- Find after-school meals programs at select schools.
- Visit the Human Services Resource Guide to find organizations that can assist.
Resources for unhoused individuals:
- Shelters for Families with Children: If you and your family are facing homelessness, contact Coordinated Services Planning at 703-222-0880. A specialist will connect you to a homelessness prevention and emergency shelter.
- Shelters for Adults: There are three emergency shelters for adults in Fairfax County. Call one of the three to request a bed or outreach if you are unsheltered.
- Domestic Violence Hotline: Those impacted by domestic violence should call 703-360-7273 for emergency shelter and other services.
Take Action to Help Others
There are several ways you can help support those with food insecurity in Fairfax County:
- Stuff the Bus is a partnership between Fairfax County Government and local nonprofit organizations to support food assistance efforts for families and households. Now in its 12th year, the program uses Fairfax County’s FASTRAN buses to collect donations for local food banks every winter. In 2023, Stuff the Bus launched a virtual food drive that allows individuals and community organizations to give monetary donations directly to local non-profit organizations that provide food assistance in Fairfax County:
- Get involved with the Fairfax Food Council and explore ways to improve our food system and support healthy food access.
You can also help those who are unsheltered by: