Arlington County, Schools Work Together to Expand Access to Food Duri

Published on April 10, 2020

As part of a countywide response, Arlington County Government, Arlington Public Schools and many other agencies, non-profit organizations, businesses and volunteers are working to provide food assistance during the COVID-19 emergency. In anticipation of increasing need, County Manager Mark Schwartz and APS Interim Superintendent Cintia Johnson have created the Cooperative for a Hunger Free Arlington (CHFA) and tasked it to help coordinate efforts to make sure that every Arlington resident who needs food has it during the pandemic.

CHFA will be working to expand community food distribution models that are working now and to add new initiatives, creating a network of resources to meet residents' needs. The faith community, PTAs, civic associations, nonprofit organizations, businesses and citizens all are engaged in important work that can grow. New methods of delivering meals and groceries directly to households are being explored. This includes more availability of groceries in more locations through the Arlington Food Assistance Center, an organization that is, and has been, pivotal in feeding families.

The CHFA is led by Abby Raphael, former two-term School Board Chair who works with a variety of non-profit and community organizations; Diane Kresh, director, Arlington Department of Libraries; and Amy Maclosky, director, Food and Nutrition Services, Arlington Public Schools. They will help foster collaboration across Arlington to support community member needs and identify new needs to quickly mobilize additional solutions to get food to those with the greatest need.

Arlington Public Schools and Arlington County have been working together to lead an overall coordinated effort in response to the pandemic of which food distribution is one area of need. We are all in this together, so collaboration and teamwork are key in supporting our community through this pandemic.

"Our priority is ensuring that children who depend on school meals have access to food during the school closure. Arlington Public Schools has been working hard to meet the needs of our students and began food distribution on the first day that schools were closed, Monday, March 16," said Maclosky. "We assess our food distribution process every day and are making adjustments on a weekly basis. We continue to see a growing need and continue to expand both our sites and volunteers. We are now looking forward to stronger countywide collaboration to address future needs and ensure that all students can easily access food."

Arlington Public Schools is providing free grab-and-go meals for children aged 2-18 and will expand to seven distribution sites on April 13, 2020.

"So many individuals and organizations are doing incredible work, stepping up to support our community in this uncertain time, and yet we know that more needs to be done," said Raphael. "As this crisis continues, more people are losing jobs, becoming ill, and cannot leave their homes for a variety of reasons. The CHFA work focuses on making sure that people know what resources are available, whom to call and how to safely access nutritious food. It will take all of us working together to help our most vulnerable neighbors get through this pandemic."

"We are very fortunate to have community leaders getting involved who are passionate about supporting our community," said Kresh. "This effort will require all of us to work together with our partners in government, business, and nonprofit organizations to find creative solutions to serve our community and we will also need the help of neighborhood volunteers over the coming weeks and months."

Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools encourage residents to continue to practice social distancing and other healthy behaviors. In addition, now is the time for every household to have a COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness Plan in place. This includes the identification of a trusted neighbor or friend who is willing to travel to a food site or store to pick up food or groceries, medicine or other essentials on your behalf should you or someone in your household become ill, or if you cannot leave your home for any reason.

In the coming weeks, the CHFA, in coordination with the County, schools and other community partners, will share more details and communicate expanded easy-to-access resources for food assistance, building on the full range of current resources, listed below.

Arlington County Food Assistance Resources

See a full list of other community resources and business and non-profit meal services.

Arlington County's Department of Human Services assists low income Arlington residents who cannot meet their basic needs and is expanding supports to households affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Types of services provided include: Assistance with financial difficulty in paying rent, utilities, obtaining food, medical care, prescription medication, dental needs, transportation, eyeglasses and clothing. Learn more. For assistance, call 703-228-1300.

Want to Volunteer? Residents interested in supporting countywide efforts to assist families with food and other critical needs can visit Volunteer Arlington's Care for Community.