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AFAC Begins Distributing Thanksgiving Meals to Needy Families

The Arlington Food Assistance Center has begun its annual distribution of Thanksgiving dinners to needy families.

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.

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