Arlington, VA

Arlington Public Schools will distribute meals at 21 of its schools during distance learning, up from its current nine.

The expansion comes as pandemic-related food insecurity rises in the county.

All APS students can pick up lunch at the new locations. Those who qualify for free- and reduced-price meals will continue to receive them, while those who do not qualify must pay as they would in a normal year.

“We are making it safe and convenient for all students and families to pick up meals while in distance learning and encourage all students to come to our meal sites, get fresh air, see friends, and take a break while picking up meals,” Amy Maclosky, director of APS Food and Nutrition Services, said in a press release.

Five of the distributing schools also meet the income requirement to qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision, a program run by the federal Food and Nutrition Service.

Under the provision, all students at Barcroft, Barrett, Carlin, Drew and Randolph elementary schools will receive free breakfast and lunch. Students’ families will not have to individually apply for these meals.

The fall grab-and-go meal distribution will begin on the first day of (remote) school: Tuesday, Sept. 8. Summer meal pick-up service, meanwhile, will end on Friday. More from an email to APS families:

APS will be expanding the grab-and-go meal distribution locations from the current 9 locations to 21 schools and adjusting meal services for the new school year, beginning Tues, Sept. 8, when APS begins operating under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).The last day for the APS summer grab-and-go meals service is Fri, Aug. 28.

Families who pick up meals on Fri, Aug. 28 will receive breakfast and lunch for Sat, Aug. 29 and Mon, Aug. 31. There will be no meal service Aug. 31-Sept. 7. Meal service will resume on Tue, Sept. 8 under NSLP, APS is committed to ensuring that ALL students, ages 2-18, can easily access healthy, nutritious meals.

As of last Thursday, the school system said it had served 358,512 meals to students since schools closed on March 16.

The expansion of APS meal pick-up sites is going into effect amid an increase in local food need.

During a special meeting of the Arlington County Board yesterday, Anita Friedman, director of Arlington’s Department of Human Services (DHS), said there has been an increase in households seeking aid from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“Between February and May of 2020, Arlington County saw an 84% increase in SNAP applications,” Friedman said. “We are basically hovering around double the amount of applications that we had prior to COVID, although we’re down from the peak that occurred in April.”

Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) announced on August 20 that, when comparing the five months before and after the pandemic’s start, it has seen a 45% increase in families being referred to AFAC by social workers.

AFAC said it has served 33% more families during that time period — 5,054 families consisting of 12,306 individuals.

“When grocery store shelves were empty at the start of the pandemic, AFAC was the sole source of food for many in our community,” AFAC said in a press release. “Since many low-income jobs have not returned, families are visiting AFAC more frequently for much needed food.”

At Tuesday’s Board meeting, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz proposed a new Food Security Coordinator position, to be created within the Dept. of Human Services to address food insecurity. He also called for a pilot program that would distribute grocery gift cards to families known to be having trouble accessing food.

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