Fairfax County in Virginia ranks as the second wealthiest county in the United States. Ironically, Fairfax County is also an easy place to be poor. Minimum-wage workers here face rents that take 60 percent or more of their pay, forcing families to double up in crowded apartments. Or they live outside the county and must travel for hours to those low-wage jobs. Food, clothes, transportation, and health care? Often, little cash is left for these.
Based on U.S. Census figures, more than 70,000 people are living in poverty in Fairfax County and 30 percent of them are children. But in a wealthy county like Fairfax, where the cost of living is far from average, the national poverty guidelines do not give the real picture. Thousands more families are struggling here even though they do not qualify for federal food assistance.
Food for Others in Fairfax serves these families, providing free emergency food, distributing the USDA monthly food allotments, offering street-corner food deliveries in poor neighborhoods, and providing weekend food for students who receive free or reduced-cost lunches at school. FFO also delivers food in bulk to community partners, such as churches or shelters that have their own clientele.
Food for Others clients are mostly the working poor. Of course the unemployed are served as well, as are people in emergency situations such as illness or domestic violence, but the working poor predominate. FFO now serves up to 600 families every day Monday through Friday, and last year distributed over 2.2 million pounds of free food with a donation value of $3,340,000.
The food comes from many retail donors including grocery stores and farmers markets, as well as from the Capital Area Food Bank, food drives, and harvesting activities. Earlier this month, area Boy Scouts conducted their annual food drive (pictured above), just one of many major contributions to Food for Others food supplies throughout the year.
To carry out this work, Food for Others relies on a broad base of community donations and volunteers. Food for Others efforts are supported financially by hundreds of individual donations and by Fairfax County, by U.S. Community Services Block Grant funds, and by contributions from churches, businesses, and foundations.
This week, Food for Others is providing Thanksgiving food to clients sent by social-service agencies and religious groups, something that has become a tradition. The FFO warehouse distributes hundreds of turkeys and all the other groceries that go into Thanksgiving dinner. And while this week offers special food, Food for Others is committed to its clients not just at the holidays but throughout the year.
Fortunately, community support has kept pace with community need, even during the height of the recent recession. Now in its 22nd year of service, Food for Others is a key pillar supporting Fairfax County’s families in need.