Arlington, VA

As the coronavirus outbreak results in closed businesses and lost jobs, the Arlington Food Assistance Center is preparing for a decrease in donations and an increase in demand.

“We’re just going to try to operate as normally,” said Jeremiah Huston, communications manager for AFAC. “We serve 2,100 or 2,200 families every week and we’re going to continue to do that as an essential need in the community.”

Huston said with the grocery stores raided and shelves emptying, AFAC is not getting the donations from stores it usually receives and is instead relying on food purchased from wholesalers to give out milk, egg and frozen proteins with the organization’s food budget.

“It’s hard to tell right now if there’s an increased need, it’s early,” Huston said. “Some of those families might be coming in more often. Right now it’s once a week but they might have to come in more often to replenish their shelves.”

The effect of the coronavirus on the paychecks of working class residents is of particular concern.

“Those are people who didn’t need our services but might now,” Huston said. “[It’s] similar to last year’s government shutdown, but this one seems like it will be extended longer.”

On Instagram, AFAC put out a message noting that donations from grocery stores were starting to decline sharply. Huston said AFAC is still seeking donations — both food donations and money for the organization to buy food.

Meanwhile, Huston said the center is following CDC guidelines and trying to keep things safe and sanitary. Spray paint is being used on a temporary basis, to show people how far six-feet apart is, and fewer clients are being seen at any given time. Anyone with a referral from the county’s Department of Human Services who can prove Arlington residence can come in to receive assistance.

The organization is also still evaluating its volunteer needs.

“The situation has changed where a lot of daytime volunteers are seniors so we’re telling them to take more caution,” Huston said, “but we’ve gotten a lot of emails from people who were working who aren’t now [to come volunteer]. More volunteers aren’t needed yet but we’ll let people know.”

For now, Huston said the organization is going to have to see how things turn out over the next couple of weeks.

“We’re looking at numbers over the next couple weeks and it’s going to take time to see the effect this will have,” Huston said. “We can’t tell day-to-day. Today it seemed kind of normal.”

Photo via AFAC

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