Next week, from Nov. 2 to Nov. 9, Arlington Public Library will donate 10 cents of every dollar paid in fines to the Arlington Food Assistance Center.
This is the first year of the donation program, according to library spokesman Peter Golkin. The money will be coming from the Friends of the Public Library group, not from the fines themselves, which go back into the county budget.
The library brings in thousands of dollars in fines each week, Golkin said, but if residents don’t have a library book or movie overdue, they can still bring food donations to the library for AFAC. These are the items AFAC says it needs most at the moment:
- Cooking oil in plastic bottles
- Small bags of flour
- Canned tuna in water
- Low sugar cereals
- Low sodium soups
- Whole wheat pasta
Golkin noted the donation week will start a bit late Saturday. Arlington Central Library will be closed until 3:00 p.m. on Saturday due to a planned power outage as a result of construction on a nearby building. The library will stay open two hours later than normal — until 7:00 p.m. — Saturday evening to compensate. Other libraries will open at normal times, and donations will be collected at all locations.
AFAC Executive Director Charles Meng announced at the ceremony that AFAC raised 106,000 pounds of food over the past month, exceeding its goal of 100,000. At the Fill the Bus event this past weekend, in which donors helped fill an ART bus full of food, AFAC received more than 4,700 pounds. Meng thanked his predecessors and the organization’s founders, but reminded the dozens in the audience what work he feels there still is to do.
“There are almost 31,000 individuals in Arlington County who do not have enough to eat on a regular basis,” Meng said. “We service only a small part of that.”
Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada, who volunteers at the center along with his wife, Robin, said AFAC is part of the “strong safety net” the less fortunate in Arlington need.
“AFAC has always been one of my favorite organizations,” Tejada said. “There are so many people here who really care.”
The event, at AFAC’s Shirlington-area distribution center, was scheduled to start at 3:00 p.m., but didn’t begin until 3:30 as AFAC representatives waited for the invited elected officials to show. Sheriff Beth Arthur and School Board Chair Abby Raphael arrived on time and Tejada walked in during Meng’s speech.
County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette, state Sens. Barbara Favola (D-31) and Adam Ebbin (D-30), and Del. Patrick Hope (D-47), all of whom we were billed as expected guests, were no-shows for the speeches. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) sent a staff member while he was on Capitol Hill negotiating on the eve of the government shutdown.
The Arlington Food Assistance Center is low on cereal, pasta, peanut butter and other food items.
AFAC volunteer coordinator Laura Jackson said the end of the summer is typically when its dry food stores are lowest because the center doesn’t conduct as many food drives while people are on vacation.
“It happens most summers,” she said. “We get a lot of produce donations from farmer’s markets during the summer, but a tomato is not the same thing as cereal.”
Other items AFAC is looking for donations are low-sodium soup, canned tuna in water, small bags of flour and cooking oils in plastic bottles.
The center is participating in the nationwide Hunger Action Month, with several events planned around Arlington to collect food and donations. The biggest event, Jackson said, is the Fill the Bus campaign the weekend of Sept. 27-29 at the Giant supermarket at 3115 Lee Highway. AFAC hopes to collect 20,000 pounds of food to fill an ART bus.
There are numerous food drives and even a screening of a movie among the other events planned for Hunger Action Month. More information on donating money or food to AFAC can be found on the organization’s web site.
The food drive will run from Saturday, Dec. 1 to Friday, Dec. 21. Firefighters will collect non-perishable food donations at fire stations in Arlington and Falls Church, and at the county government building at 2100 Clarendon Blvd in Courthouse. The donations will then be sent to AFAC, which is based in the Shirlington area.
AFAC is most in need of items like cereal, flour, cooking oil, pasta or canned tuna, according to a press release. The organization serves more than 4,000 adults and children on an average week.
“It’s a myth that no one in Arlington goes hungry,” Arlington Fire Chief James Schwartz said in a statement. “Every week, thousands of families and children need our help, just to survive. The men and women of ACFD want to do what they can to help our community, especially during this special time of year.”
The fire department will not be participating in the annual “Toys for Tots” drive this year.
In addition to the ACFD food drive, Arlington County will be running its annual Secret Santa program, which collects gift cards to be donated to needy families, seniors and Foster children.
The scouts will stop at homes in a number of neighborhoods to collect food donations to benefit Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). They will directly visit residents who received bags and fliers last week explaining the drive. Out of courtesy for residents, scouts don’t knock on doors; instead residents are asked to leave food donations in plain sight near their front doors, by 9:00 a.m. All donations are expected to be collected by noon.
Residents who didn’t receive a bag on their door will not be visited by the scouts. These residents can still participate, however, by taking food donations to the Cherrydale or Harrison Street Safeway stores.
Suggested foods for donation include pasta, peanut butter, breakfast food, tuna, soup, fruit and beans. AFAC and the scouts both ask that items in glass jars are not donated.
The goal is to exceed last year’s total of 60,000 pounds of donated food.
Right now, AFAC serves about 1,400 people each week, but that may increase as temperatures grow colder.
Glee Star to Visit W-L Today — Glee star Lauren Potter and Best Buddies founder Anthony Shriver will be visiting Washington-Lee High School’s Best Buddies chapter at 3:00 p.m. today (Friday). “The Washington-Lee chapter of Best Buddies was ranked number one among DC-MD-VA chapters based on the quality of friendships, student leadership and dedication to the Best Buddies mission,” according to Arlington Public Schools. Potter, who has Down syndrome, is best known for her role as Becky Jackson on the hit Fox TV series.
Chef Beats Out ‘Chief’ in Culinary Competition — Eventide Chef Adam Barnett emerged as the big winner in the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s “Chiefs vs. Chefs” cooking competition between professional restaurant chefs and amateur firehouse cooks. AFAC hopes to turn the fundraiser into an annual event. [Sun Gazette]
Violent Crime Down in ACPD’s First District — Violent crime is down 15 percent in Arlington’s first police district, which encompasses much of North Arlington, minus Lyon Village, Clarendon, Courthouse and Rosslyn, according to police. The number of rapes are up, however; all of the instances involved a known suspect, not a random attacker. [Patch]
Pike Neighborhoods Plan Wins Award — The Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan, which aims to transform Columbia Pike into a more urban and walkable community while maintaining affordable housing, has won an award from the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA). The plan won the “2012 Benjamin Banneker Award for Outstanding Social Commitment and Community” for demonstrating “sustained commitment to reach beyond the traditional scope of planning, particularly advancing social objectives.” [Arlington County]
LED Street Lights Draw Complaints — New energy-efficient LED street lighting has been drawing complaints from Arlington residents. Residents have complained that the new lights are too bright and too white. That has prompted county officials to install dimmers on the lights, which has driven up the cost of the new lighting. The county is also exploring the use of lighting that is less harsh but also less energy efficient. [Sun Gazette]
‘Chiefs vs. Chefs’ Cooking Challenge Tonight — Some of Arlington most notable chefs will be battling some of Arlington’s top firehouse cooks in a cooking challenge for charity tonight. The chefs — David Guas of Bayou Bakery, Todd Pozinsky of Carlyle in Shirlington and Adam Barnett of Eventide — will go up against the tastiest creations from Arlington’s bravest. ‘Chiefs vs. Chefs’ is taking place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. tonight at the Key Bridge Marriott (1401 Lee Highway). Tickets to the event, which benefits the Arlington Food Assistance Center, start at $100. [AFAC]
Transportation Advice for APS – Writing in response to the recent controversy over changes to busing at Arlington Public Schools, Greater Greater Washington writer and Arlington resident Steve Offutt says APS should look to Arlington County government for guidance on how to create a “real, 21st-century transportation plan” that isn’t so focused on buses. [Greater Greater Washington]
New Jeweler Coming to Clarendon — Alexandria-based B&C Jewelers will be opening a second location in Clarendon. The store will be opening at 2729 Wilson Boulevard, in the storefront once occupied by the Sisters3 boutique. [Patch]
The main event is being called the “Hunger Challenge,” during which residents are asked to try feeding themselves on $4.03 per day. That’s the amount of assistance the average Arlington resident would receive from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Participants are asked to try the challenge all month, for a week or even just a day, in an effort to understand the difficulty some of their neighbors have with feeding themselves and their families.
“If you struggle to eat well on $28.21 per week, you’ll understand how glad AFAC clients are to be able to fill the gap in their food budget with the milk, eggs, produce, meat and other items distributed by AFAC,” said Charles Meng, AFAC’s Executive Director.
AFAC currently helps about 1,600 families per week, which continues its recent trend of serving an all-time high number of people. Mona Bormet, AFAC Outreach and Research Manager, noted that it’s difficult and often embarrassing for people to receive assistance, but they may not have other options.
“They don’t really want to come here for help, they come here because they need to,” Bormet said. “Most people would rather be able to take care of themselves and their families on their own.”
AFAC is also offering the following volunteer opportunities to help fight hunger throughout September:
- Help collect food donations at local Safeway stores from September 8-11.
- Help pick fresh produce from area farms and gardens that will be used for food donations, on September 8, 15, 22 and 29.
- Eat at Pete’s Apizza (3017 Clarendon Blvd) on Monday, September 17, from 11:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. and 25 percent of the proceeds will be donated to AFAC.
- Attend movie night at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) on Wednesday, September 19th, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Join AFAC and filmmaker Cintia Cabib in the main auditorium for a screening of “A Community of Gardeners.” The film highlights D.C. community gardens and their vital role.
- Join AFAC’s Young Professionals on Thursday, September 20, from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at Whitlow’s on Wilson (2854 Wilson Blvd) for Mug Night.
- Try the California Dreaming Wine Tasting at Screwtop Wine Bar & Cheese Shop (1025 N. Fillmore Street) on Monday, September 24, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. All of the proceeds will be donated to AFAC. The event is limited to 45 people, and costs $15.99 to sample 10 wines and cheeses.
Anyone interested can get involved with these and other AFAC volunteer opportunities by signing up online.
The event, which will benefit AFAC’s efforts to fight hunger, will take place after work in Clarendon.
Young professionals are invited to bring their dogs — and a $5 donation — to the (now closed) James Hunter dog park at the corner of N. Herndon Street and 13th Street around 6:00 p.m. The walk will start at 6:30 p.m., will wind through the residential neighborhoods around Clarendon, and will end by 7:30 p.m. with a “yappy hour” on the patio at Mexicali Blues (2933 Wilson Blvd).
Those without dogs are welcome to participate — and perhaps even adopt a pooch of their own.
“Although this is a dog walk event, walkers do NOT have to have a dog to participate,” organizers said in an email. “Volunteers from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington will… join the walk with dogs in need of loving homes.”
Those interested in participating are asked to RSVP to email@example.com.
There’s a lighthouse inside the Ballston mall right now, but it’s probably not what you think. It’s one of the many structures on display made entirely of canned food, all for a good cause.
The American Institute of Architects Northern Virginia Chapter and the Arlington Food Assistance Center have teamed up for the ninth year to present the Canstruction competition. Teams of architects build structures made entirely out of canned food. All the food donations, which typically add up to tens of thousands of pounds, are then donated to AFAC.
Tonight, the winner will be announced at an awards ceremony at Rock Bottom Brewery, starting at 6:00 p.m. The displays will remain intact throughout the mall until 8:00 a.m. on Saturday.
The Young Professionals fundraising branch of the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) is holding their second annual “Hunger Is No Joke” benefit at Cafe Asia (1550 Wilson Blvd) in Rosslyn tonight.
Local party band Over the Line will perform at the event, which starts at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $35 for one or $60 for a pair. There will also be food and “plentiful” drinks, provided by Cafe Asia, and a raffle for signed Capitals pucks, D.C. United tickets, and gift cards to local restaurants, boutiques, salons and spas. All proceeds will benefit AFAC.
“This event promises to be our best of the year,” said Carrington Blencowe, chairwoman of the AFAC-Young Professionals Executive Committee. “Where else can you enjoy a night on the town while also helping your neighbors in need?”
AFAC provides groceries and other necessities to more than 1,600 families each week.
First Day of Spring / Tornado Drill — Today’s the first official day of spring, though it’s hard to think of the warm weather the past couple of weeks as “winter.” Along with the start of spring comes the start of the most active time for tornadoes. With that in mind, Virginia is holding a statewide tornado drill at 9:45 this morning.
County Budget Hearing Tonight — Arlington County is hearing a public hearing on its proposed FY 2013 budget tonight. The hearing is being held in the County Board room at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard and is scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. A public hearing on the county’s proposed tax rate changes is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Thursday. [Arlington County]
Leonsis Helps Raise Money for AFAC — Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has helped the Arlington Food Assistance Center raise an additional $21,000. Lenonsis offered tickets to his box at the Verizon Center to anybody willing to donate $3,500 to AFAC, which six donors quickly did. [Sun Gazette]
AFAC expects to distribute some 1,800 frozen turkeys between today and Saturday, when the distribution ends. The organization is also distributing stuffing and mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, in addition to its normal weekly food distribution (eggs, milk, pasta, canned goods, etc.).
Rep. Jim Moran joined volunteers at AFAC’s Shirlington distribution site this afternoon. The 66-year-old congressman helped to distribute food to AFAC clients, in an effort to draw more attention to the group’s mission.
“I’m hoping to bring a little extra visibility to what AFAC does so that more people will support it financially and through volunteerism,” Moran told ARLnow.com. “This is the best, most extensive feeding program for Arlington residents… who don’t have the material resources to adequately feed their family. [AFAC] uses the least public money, has the most volunteers and is run the most efficiently.”
AFAC is handing out Thanksgiving dinners at all 12 of the group’s distribution sites in Arlington. Executive Director Charles Meng says this week is typically the busiest time of the year for the organization. Since AFAC recently set an all-time high for the number of families it served in a week, Meng expects it may set another record this week.
“Our demand is still increasing and the growth has not yet stopped,” Meng said. “So something’s happening in the community that’s still driving people to us.”
Meng says he believes “underemployment” is a problem for a significant number of AFAC clients — many who were formerly unemployed have found jobs, but the jobs they’ve found aren’t paying enough (often minimum wage) to allow them to buy all the food they need for their families.
“The bottom line is that people don’t really want to come here,” Meng said. “Yes, we’re giving out food — it’s free – but you really don’t want to come here. You’d prefer to go to a local grocery store, get your own food, select what you want.”
New AFAC clients must first be referred to the organization by Arlington’s Department of Human Services, Arlington Public Schools, churches or some other social service agency.
AFAC served 1572 families, or 4006 individuals, last week. The previous high was hit on Nov. 21, 2009, when AFAC served 1524 families during its traditionally busy Thanksgiving distribution week. Last month, AFAC saw its highest average monthly number of families served: 1450.
“Most of the individuals, I would say, are affected by the recession,” AFAC Executive Director Charles Meng told ARLnow.com. “The issue remains that unemployment among the lower income brackets in Arlington County is still very high. Those individuals are still not finding jobs, or are getting jobs that pay minimum wage.”
Meng said that while Arlington’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country, the relative prosperity has not trickled down to lower-income individuals, who are having a hard time finding full-time employment that pays the bills. According to Meng, it takes a wage of about $12.50 to $13.00 per hour to live in Arlington.
“Rents are high and the price of various commodities are higher here than elsewhere,” he said. “We do see some of our clients getting jobs, but they’re not full time and they’re not at a living wage for Arlington County.”
While previous growth in the number of individuals served by AFAC came from senior citizens, Meng says the latest growth came from an increase in families utilizing AFAC’s S. Nelson Street, Clarendon and Gunston distribution sites. The organization operates about a dozen distribution sites around the county.
The good news, according to an AFAC press release, is that donations are increasing.
“Food donations are beginning to increase with the start of the school year and cash donations are on the rise,” the organization said. “Both should continue to increase through the holidays.”
Meng said AFAC can meet current demand, but added: “We can always use donations.”
The Arlington Food Assistance Center is asking local gardeners and farmers to donate extra produce to bolster AFAC’s food pantry.
“Each week, over 1,300 client families visit AFAC to pick up supplemental groceries,” the organization said in a statement. “Fresh fruits and vegetables are in high demand among AFAC clients, especially as fuel prices drive up food prices.”
Produce donations can be made at the following locations:
- AFAC (2708 S. Nelson Street) — Monday though Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
- Master Gardeners Help Desk at the Courthouse Farmers Market (N. Courthouse Road & 14th Street N.) — Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to noon
- Rock Spring United Church of Christ (5010 Little Falls Road) — Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to noon
For more information on donating, and to learn about other ways to help, contact Puwen.Lee[at]afac.org or call 703-845-8486. The produce donation drive is part of AFAC’s Plot Against Hunger program.