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AFAC—the Arlington Food Assistance Center—is one of these organizations.
AFAC is a non-profit founded over 20 years ago to distribute food and groceries to Arlington residents who cannot afford to purchase enough food to meet their basic needs. Any family seeking such assistance must have a referral from a local church, school, social service agency, or Arlington County government agency.
AFAC currently serves approximately 1,600 families. About 40 percent of its clients are children. Among these are homeless children. The Arlington Public School system estimates that there are as many as 300 homeless children attending schools in the County at any one time. They live in transient housing, often with no food or kitchens available. Their main meal of the day is at the school they attend.
The other main categories of AFAC’s clients include:
- elderly residents with high medical expenses
- those with mental or emotional disabilities
- eligible applicants for food stamps who have not yet begun to receive them
- those suffering from illness or disability who lack sick leave employment benefits
AFAC depends on different kinds of volunteer assistance to sustain its programs. In 2012, volunteers provided AFAC with over 25,000 hours of their time. This saved AFAC at least $500,000 in staffing costs, and enabled AFAC to direct these savings to help eligible families. Organizing food drives, and encouraging other Arlington organizations to become AFAC community partners, are two of the principal ways in which to volunteer.
AFAC organizes and administers a series of genuine safety net programs, helping needy individuals and families avoid hunger when they truly have no other viable option.
To learn more about AFAC, and how you might be able to help, visit www.afac.org.
Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.