Food Security Task Force

What is the Food Security Task Force?

A 2019 report from Feeding America estimated that 7.8% of Arlingtonians don’t have enough food to sufficiently feed their families each month. Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, that number increased drastically. There are many organizations and individuals doing great work to help close that gap, but the need persists. The Food Security Task Force is a group of community stakeholders working together to improve the food security system and infrastructure in Arlington. The group will work together for 12-18 months to develop a food security strategic plan that will address many of the challenges that families face in accessing the food assistance they need.

Vision: A community where all have enough healthy food to feed themselves and their families.

Mission: To create an interconnected food security system in Arlington that works together to meet its residents’ need to feed themselves and their families, healthy and culturally appropriate food, in an affordable and dignified manner. 

Composition

The task force is made up of 28 members who represent various stakeholders in Arlington’s food security infrastructure, including non-profit, faith-based, and school-based food providers; population representatives; business partners; and community members.  The task force will be led by Stephanie Hopkins, Food Security Coordinator at the Department of Human Services. Matt de Ferranti is the County Board Liaison. 

Food Security Task Force Members

  • Robin Broder, Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture
  • Wendy Carria, Arlington Public Schools
  • Rachel Coates, DHS, Arlington Aging and Disability Services Division
  • Lawrence Collins, Community Member
  • Susan Davidson, AHC
  • Lily Duran, Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC)
  • Matt de Ferranti, Arlington County Board
  • Sally Diaz Wells, Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church
  • Tracy Gaither, Arlington Public Schools
  • Kim Haun, Department of Parks & Recreation
  • Stephanie Hopkins, DHS, Economic Independence Division
  • Cassie Hurley, Arlington Chamber of Commerce
  • Daniela Hurtado, La Cocina VA
  • Caroline Jones, Arlington Free Clinic
  • Amy McWilliams, Columbia Pike Partnership
  • Charlie Meng, Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC)
  • Natalia Muniz, Arlington Community Foundation
  • Marvin Nells, NAACP of Arlington
  • Mary Porter, Real Food for Kids
  • Abby Raphael, Destination 2027
  • Pat Rivers, DHS, Economic Independence Division
  • Aisha Salazar, Virginia Cooperative Extension
  • Mary Sanders, Healthy Community Action Team
  • Cynthia Singiser, Capital Area Food Bank
  • Bethany Zecher Sutton, Randolph Elementary School PTA
  • Violet Taylor, Community Member
  • Janeth Valenzuela, Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Student Concerns

Key Stages of Work

  • Analysis of current situation & available data
  • Identification of preliminary strategies & actions
  • Needs assessment & analysis
  • Final decisions on strategies & actions
  • Creation of sub-committees to push the work forward
  • Develop final report & present to county board for adoption

Food Security and Access Study with The Urban Institute

In 2021, the Urban Institute partnered with the Arlington County Food Security Task Force to evaluate food insecurity and access to nutritious, healthy, and culturally appropriate food within and across Arlington County. The study looked at food insecurity rates across the county, use and perceptions of charitable food assistance, and the experience of residents accessing food. As part of the study, a survey of residents in the targeted neighborhoods and follow up interviews were conducted in November 2021. 

Key findings include:

  • Food insecurity is concentrated in south and east Arlington County, especially the Glencarlyn, Buckingham/Ashton Heights, Pentagon City, Crystal City South, Forest Glen/Arlington Mill, and Crystal City North neighborhoods.
  • Survey data show Black and Hispanic/Latinx respondents reported significantly higher rates of food insecurity than white respondents and that Asian households with low incomes had to travel further to access charitable food sites.
  • Households experiencing food insecurity had substantial difficulty paying expenses, and food budgets were often the first to be cut in times of financial hardship, especially as increasing inflation put upward pressure on households’ food costs.
  • Most charitable food sites in Arlington County were open year-round, but fewer than 1 in 5 offered weekly service and evening or weekend hours. In particular, the Crystal City and Pentagon City areas had relatively high estimated food insecurity rates compared with the rest of the county and low access to existing charitable food resources.
  • About half of residents who were experiencing food insecurity at the time of the survey reported using free groceries or meals. Residents reported that the cost of transportation, pride, and stigma may be a barrier to accessing free groceries and meals.

To view the full report visit Improving Food Security and Access in Arlington County, Virginia: Mixed-Methods Analyses and Recommendations | Urban InstituteAn executive summary, which summarizes the findings is also available. The Food Security Task Force is reviewing findings and recommendations from the study, and will consider investments where Arlington County could build on its strengths and address residents’ concerns and barriers.

Meeting Materials

 

Data Dashboard