Although Northern Virginia has a reputation for being one of the wealthiest areas in the nation, more than 136,000 people in our area are food insecure.
The high cost of living in Northern Virginia means many people struggle to get by even though they have a job, or two. Individuals and families are forced to make trade-offs, choosing between paying for food or other necessities like rent, utilities and medicine. And, since the COVID-19 pandemic caused lay-offs, furloughs, and school closures, the number of families facing food insecurity is increasing dramatically. The Capital Area Food Bank’s 2020 Hunger Report predicts that within the next year, the number of people in our area struggling to obtain food will double.
Families who are facing food insecurity may be eating fewer meals, cutting out important food items like meat or vegetables, or eating only cheap processed foods. And, food insecurity can cause long term health issues like Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. Children are especially vulnerable. Children who do not get enough to eat tend to have social and behavioral issues, difficulty concentrating in school, and delayed physical development. In the DC Metro area, 130,000 children are food insecure but due to COVID-19, that number could jump to 211,000 in the next year.
When COVID-19 related closures began in March of 2020, thousands of people found themselves out of work and without a paycheck. Parents whose children relied on school meals suddenly had to provide enough food to feed their kids all day.
Though the pandemic has left many families without food, there is a network of organizations throughout Northern Virginia working to address food insecurity in our community. Families in need of emergency food assistance can access the fresh, nutritious foods they need at one of the many food pantries serving Northern Virginia. These organizations include Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC), Loudon Hunger Relief, Food for Others, Western Fairfax Christian Ministries, United Community, Lorton Community Action Center, and the Capital Area Food Bank. All are providing free food to families in need during COVID-19. Many offer drive through or contactless pickup as well as off-site, evening food distributions for families who need to pick up food after work hours. Public schools are providing grab-and-go meals to families with school-aged children, and there are a number of churches and other community organizations that have also started operating pantries.
Want to join the fight against hunger? Here is how you can support the local organizations fighting food insecurity during COVID-19:
- Volunteer at your local food pantry
- Host a food drive with your family, neighbors, or colleagues. If possible, ask your local food pantry what they need most
- Make a monetary donation to your local food pantry and ask your employer to match your donation
- Spread the word about hunger in Northern Virginia by following and commenting on your local food pantry’s social media posts
- Stay informed by signing up to receive updates from your local food pantry