Arlington residents in and around Crystal City will be able to make food donations at three drop-off points Saturday morning.
“During this challenging time, we are eager to use FLARE electric shuttles to benefit our neighbors and the Arlington Food Assistance Center. We urge our friends and neighbors to make much-needed food donations to AFAC tomorrow morning, and we’ll deliver the contributions to AFAC,” said FLARE CEO Andres Delgado, in a statement.
Drop-off donations will be accepted this Saturday (March 21) from 8-11 a.m. at 516 25th Street S., 2729 Fort Scott Drive, and 2100 Crystal Drive.
“Food items that are in greatest need are: rice, pasta, low-sugar cereal, canned tomatoes, canned soup, canned tuna fish, and canned beans (no glass),” FLARE noted.
AFAC announced Friday that it is also setting up food collection boxes outside of six (closed) Arlington community centers.
There will be food donation boxes outside 6 @arlparksrec community centers this weekend: Aurora Hills, Barcroft, Fairlington, Langston-Brown, Thomas Jefferson, and Walter Reed. If you have nonperishables to donate, stop by your closest center! #fooddrive #afacfeeds @ArlingtonVA pic.twitter.com/omk3TZcfbx
— AFAC (@AFACfeeds) March 20, 2020
(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) As Arlingtonians scramble to stock up on emergency supplies to weather the coronavirus pandemic, some local nonprofits that are helping those most in need are starting to see the strain on the county’s most vulnerable populations.
“We’re still trying to get used to the new reality,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of Arlington Thrive, a nonprofit that provides emergency funding to people in crisis. “We’re trying to figure out how dire the situation is for Arlingtonians, not just [in terms of] health but also economic [situations].”
Schneider said Arlington Thrive and many of the other local nonprofits like A-SPAN and AFAC are collaborating closely to try to assess where needs are highest. The local nonprofits are benefitting, Schneider said, from a few years of community leaders laying the groundwork to provide immediate help across their organizations in the event of an emergency.
“There’s a lot of collaboration going on led primarily by Arlington County and the other community foundations,” Schneider said. “Thrive, like most nonprofits, has been leaning that direction and moving even closer during this crisis. This afternoon I’m on a conference call with 22 other nonprofit executive directors and the director of human services to talk about community-wide response.”
Though things look pretty bleak nationally, Schneider said he’s still staying inspired by local acts of kindness and charity.
“We’ve seen an outpouring of support from the community but also seeing a lot of people who just want to try to make a difference,” Schneider said. “You see these awesome things that teachers are doing and Facebook groups popping up, so we’re trying to help people identify where the need is greatest and channel resources to that… but no matter how good the nonprofit, at some point demand is going to outstrip that.”
Currently, Schneider said the most immediate needs in the short term are for food and, with schools out, child care.
“The dire need right now is for child care assistance and, frankly, because of the anticipated need at AFAC there’s assistance for funding for food,” Schneider said. “Secondly, what we’re trying to do is prepare ourselves for what will be the long term, six-month impact. Even after the quarantine and the immediate crisis ends as people are still out of work or the economy gets back up, they’re going to be turning to Thrive.”
Last week, as the coronavirus crisis was ramping up, the organization announced that it had received $60,000 from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Thrive’s largest private grant ever. In this time of need, however, it will only go so far.
Schneider said Thrive is currently raising money for emergencies like rental assistance, medical assistance, and utility assistance for people who may have just lost their primary income. While Virginia has suspended non-emergency evictions, there’s still the threat that people could be forced out of their homes as soon as that’s lifted.
“People are already in a position where they’re struggling to make those payments,” Schneider said. “I worry about the need being so great in our community that we’re all going to be overwhelmed, which is why you’re seeing that partnership and collaboration.
Amazon, Arlington’s new neighbor, has donated $1 million in “emergency COVID-19 response funds” to four large D.C. area community foundations.
Among those to benefit are the Arlington Community Foundation.
“The donation will be used to provide resources to organizations working with communities disproportionately impacted by coronavirus and the economic consequences of the outbreak — including hourly workers, people experiencing homelessness, and the elderly,” the company said on its blog.
Amazon “is also providing additional cash and in-kind support to five food service providers in the Washington D.C. region,” including the Arlington Food Assistance Center.
“The Washington, D.C. area is our new home, and we must rally together to support our neighbors during this difficult time,” said Amazon PR and policy chief Jay Carney. “In addition to making sure our Amazon customers can get the essentials they need, we will support our community partners who are doing life-saving work. Amazon’s $1 million donation to these four community groups will provide fast, flexible support to those who need it most and encourage a wave of additional community donations during this unprecedented time.”
“We know that we are stronger together and hope this gift will inspire others to jump in and do what they can to improve outcomes for our neighbors in need,” Jennifer Owens, president and CEO of the Arlington Community Foundation said in a statement.
“We hope this is the first of many donations by Amazon and our other corporate citizens who recognize the need to partner with County government, and Arlington non-profits during this public health crisis,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey.
Aside from Arlington, the funds will also be used in Alexandria; D.C.; Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland; plus Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William counties and the cities of Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park.
Don’t Ride Metro Unless You Must, Says Metro — “Effective… Wednesday, March 18 — and continuing until further notice — Metro service will operate as follows: Rail system hours and service levels are further reduced to support essential travel only. DO NOT TRAVEL UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. Follow guidance from your state and local authorities. New hours: Weekdays 5AM-11PM, Sat/Sun 8AM-11PM. Trains will run every 15 minutes on each line at all times.” [WMATA, Twitter]
Utility Disconnections, Evictions Suspended — Arlington County has suspended water disconnections, Dominion has suspended power disconnections, and courts in Virginia has suspended evictions, giving those who are unable to pay their bills during the coronavirus outbreak a chance to stay in their homes. [Twitter, Dominion, Press Release, Twitter]
Police Can Now Enforce State Crowd Ban — “I just issued an emergency order with @VDHCommissioner to enforce Virginia’s statewide ban of more than 10 patrons in restaurants, theaters, and fitness centers. Please use common sense. If you were considering ignoring this limit — don’t.” [Twitter, Gov. Ralph Northam]
Compass Coffee Lays Off Most Employees — “”Compass Coffee, a DC based company just laid off 180 of their 200 employees abruptly.” [PoPville]
Vintage Restaurant Group Shutters Locations — The operator of iconic local restaurants Ragtime, Rhodeside Grill and William Jeffrey’s Tavern is closing its locations until further notice. [Twitter]
Four Courts Donates Extra Food to AFAC — “We just dropped off fresh produce @AFACfeeds… their need is still great.” [Twitter]
Marymount Extends Online-Only Classes — “In order to continue ensuring the health and safety of the campus community, Marymount University will extend its online-only class period to Tuesday, April 14 (previously March 30), as the greater Washington region sees increased cases of COVID-19.” [Press Release]
Macy’s Closes Stores Nationwide — “Macy’s is closing all of its stores nationwide, effective at the end of business Tuesday through March 31, to try to help curb the spread of COVID-19.” [CNBC]
“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
Mass Cancelled at Catholic Churches — “On Monday, March 16, 2020, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Diocese of Arlington… announced that the public celebration of all Masses in the Diocese is suspended until further notice.” [Press Release]
Food Donations Needed — “We have already seen a sharp decrease in food donations from our local grocery stores. AFAC has begun to purchase more food to offset the drop of food available on our shelves. Please think about making a donation to AFAC to help us keep our warehouse full for our families in need.” [Arlington Food Assistance Center]
Regional Park Facilities Closed — “While park and facilities are open for individual use, programs organized by NOVA Parks are canceled. All NOVA Parks facilities and buildings will be closed beginning at the close of business on March 16 and remaining closed for at least two weeks. Many parks will remain open for passive use – trails, general visitation, etc.” [NOVA Parks]
Community Centers Closed — The following Arlington rec centers are closed: Aurora Hills Community Center, Barcroft Sports & Fitness Center, Carver Community Center, Charles Drew Community Center, Gulf Branch Nature Center, Gunston Community Center, Hendry House, Lee Community Center, Long Branch Nature Center and Madison Community Center. The Fairlington, Walter Reed, Arlington Mill, Thomas Jefferson and Langston-Brown community centers remain open with modified hours. [Arlington County]
Pentagon City Mall: Before and After — Photos of the Pentagon City mall food court before and after the coronavirus outbreak shows a stark difference: bustling before vs. nearly deserted after. [Twitter]
White House: Avoid Gatherings of 10+ — “The White House’s coronavirus task force announced tougher guidelines on Monday to help slow the spread of the disease, including limiting social gatherings of more than 10 people.” [Axios]
The free event is set to take place at the Quarter Market food hall next Friday, August 2 from 9-11 p.m.
Attendees must have a Yelp profile with a current photo and their real name. A press release for the event said attendees should RSVP through the Yelp app and will receive a confirmation email before the event. But, this does not guarantee entry, since space is limited.
Quarter Market vendors including District Doughnut, Ice Cream Jubilee, Rice Crook and The Local Oyster will provide food.
Donations for the Arlington Food Assistance Center will be accepted. A $10 cash donation is suggested for entry.
In 2015, Yelp co-founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman told ARLnow he might not have made it as a tech titan if it wasn’t for bike rides to Ballston Quarter — then Ballston Common Mall — as a kid. Stoppelman grew up in Arlington, near Military Road, and attended Taylor Elementary in the 1980s before his family moved to Great Falls.
Arlington County is turning trash into treasure by growing thousands of pounds of fresh produce for a local food bank using compost from residents.
Last February, Arlington’s Solid Waste Bureau began a pilot program to create compost from residents’ food scraps. Now some of that compost is coming full circle and being used in some of the local gardens that supply fresh produce for Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).
AFAC is a nonprofit that receives around a million and a half pounds of food donations annually. The goods comes from several sources: grocery stores, private food drives, farmers markets and farms, and gardens around the region, according to spokesman Jeremiah Huston. Part of that comes from its “Plot Against Hunger” program, which cultivates the fresh produce.
AFAC staffer Puwen Lee manages this program, which she helped grow back in 2007 after noticing the food bank distributed frozen vegetables even in the summer months.
“And I thought, ‘This is really strange because I got so many vegetables in my garden,'” she said. After mentioning it to the nonprofit’s leadership, Lee said the director dropped off 600 packs of seeds on her desk and left it up to her.
Since then, Lee, who grew up gardening in Michigan, estimates the program has received over 600,000 pounds of fresh produce and has grown to include gardens from the Arlington Central Library, schools, and senior centers — and now it’s experimenting with using waste from residents themselves.
Trading trash for treasure
The Solid Waste Bureau collects food waste in two green barrels behind a rosebush by its headquarters in the Trades Center in Shirlington. The waste is then dumped into a 10-foot-high, 31-foot-long earth flow composting stem that cooks the materials under a glass roof and generates 33 cubic yards of compost in about two weeks.
When Solid Waste Bureau Chief Erik Grabowsky opens the doors to the machine, the heady smell of wine wafts out, revealing a giant auger slowly whirring through the blackened bed, turning the composting food.
Grabowsky said the final mix is cut with wood chips — something not always ideal for most vegetable gardens. But Grabowksy says it’s an “evolving” mixture that the department will tweak over time and which he plans to test in the department’s own garden next to the machine.
After the wood chips, the mix is shifted through a hulking “trammel screen” and distributed to AFAC and the Department of Parks and Recreation.
On a recent weekday, workers Travis Haddock and Lee Carrig were busy in Bobcats shuffling dirt off the paved plaza Grabowksy says will host the department’s first open house next Saturday, June 8 to show how the recycling system works. Normally, they manage repairs to the auger and the flow of compost in and out of the machine.
(When asked what their favorite part of the job was, they joked it was when the auger “stops in the middle and you got to climb in there.”)
The department’s free June event, called “Rock-and-Recycle,” will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the department’s lot in the Trades Center and will feature music and food trucks. Attendees will also be able to check out the compost for themselves, as well as the nearby Rock Crusher and Tub Grinder.
From farm to food bank
AFAC is currently experimenting with using the compost for one of its gardens. The nonprofit also makes its own mix using plant scraps and weeds pulled up from the beds.
Near AFAC’s Shirlington headquarters, volunteers run a garden that donates all its yield to the food bank. Boy Scouts originally built the raised beds that now make up 550 square feet of gardening space, and grow lettuce, beets, spinach, green beans, kale, tomatoes, and radishes, on a plot near a water pump station along S. Walter Reed Drive.
Plot Against Hunger manager Lee said the space was originally planned as a “nomadic garden” in 2013, but thanks to the neighboring Fort Barnard Community and the Department of Water and Sewer, it became a permanent fixture on Walter Reed Drive.
Certified Master Gardener Catherine Connor has managed the organic garden for the last three years. She says she’s helped set up the rain barrels and irrigation system that waters the beds in addition to supervising the planting. Now the beds are thick with greens and bumblebees hum between the flowers of the spinach plants that have gone to seed.
“Last year, we had just an incredible growing season,” Lee said. “From the farmers markets alone we picked up something like 90,000 pounds [of food.]”
(Updated on 05/17/19) A new bus will arrive tomorrow in Ballston, but the only place it’s going is to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).
Arlington Transit (ART) is organizing a “food drive” for AFAC by building a 10’x10′ bus sculpture from canned food to celebrate the transit agency’s 20th anniversary, per a press release. ART will then donate the food to AFAC after disassembling the sculpture.
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) May 17, 2019
ART staff and volunteers will start building tomorrow at 1 p.m. inside Ballston Quarter mall, nearly the newly-opened, health food-focused True Food Kitchen.
The construction is part of AFAC’s annual slew of “Canstruction” food drives. In the past, architecture groups have built elaborate sculptures from thousands of dollars worth of canned goods at the Dulles and Reagan National airports as part of a national movement of donation-by-can-sculpture.
In 2016, the American Institute of Architects Northern Virginia Chapter built a lighthouse out of soup and bean cans in the Ballston mall for one of the building competitions.
Image via Twitter
For all of the problems caused by the government shutdown across the D.C. region so far, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) fears things could get “exponentially worse” as soon as next week if federal employees are still going without paychecks.
Warner, like the rest of his Democratic colleagues in Congress, already sees the standoff over border wall funding engineered by President Trump as “outrageous” and a “disgrace.” Thousands of federal workers in the D.C. area alone missed their first paychecks of the shutdown last week, putting a severe strain on their finances and the whole region’s economy.
But Warner foresees government employees reaching a crisis point should they miss another paycheck in the coming days, which looks like a sure bet as Trump refuses to give an inch in discussions with congressional Democrats.
“When people go without a second paycheck, which is coming next Thursday, and they hit the beginning of the month of February, there are mortgages due, their rent is due, other bills are due,” Warner told reporters during a visit to the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s food distribution center in Nauck today (Friday). “That’s when things get really bad… And what’s happening in our region, it’s already a crisis. But this is going to be a crisis that spreads all across the country. “
Warner pointed out that Congress and Trump could at least agree to provide back pay for furloughed workers, but he warned that restitution alone “doesn’t make you whole.” He’s already heard stories from people taking out loans to make it through the shutdown, or missing payments and seeing their credit scores take a hit.
And he’s especially concerned about federal contractors, which include not only high-priced tech workers but people working in cafeterias or custodial services, who may not make much money.
Charlie Meng, the executive director of AFAC, told ARLnow that “many of the contractors who are most affected are our clients already.” He says the food bank has seen a “slight uptick” in interest since the shutdown started, and it began urging federal employees to swing by for free groceries, but he said that people who are already struggling to get by are the ones hardest hit by missing out on paychecks.
“We serve the working poor, and that includes many of the people who work for the government indirectly but are just hanging on,” Meng said. “Something like this happens, and it really hurts them.”
Warner notes that the shutdown will likely spell big trouble for Metro the longer it drags on. WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld told the D.C.’s regions senators yesterday (Thursday) that keeping federal workers at home is prompting a steep drop in ridership, costing the rail service about $400,000 per day.
It doesn’t help matters either that federal officials haven’t been able to reimburse Metro for about $33 million in expenses it has incurred over the course of the shutdown, an amount Wiedefeld estimates could balloon to $50 million by the end of the month. He warned that Metro would need to start relying on its line of credit to afford major capital improvements soon enough, or simply delay badly needed projects.
“In a way, it’s like Metro can’t catch a break,” Warner said. “Finally, the region stepped up, Virginia, Maryland, the District to provide additional, dedicated funding for Metro. Now we’ve got this crisis, not due to Metro’s performance but due to the government shutdown. It’s going to put Metro even further behind.”
Warner says Democrats are “absolutely” willing to negotiate on increased border security measures with the White House to end this standoff — but only if Trump agrees to open the government back up first.
“If you reward this bad behavior, he will try this again, he will try this again with spending bills going forward,” Warner said. “You don’t reward a bully.”
Warner points out that a bipartisan group of senators wrote a letter to Trump, urging him to fund the government for three weeks to let negotiations to start back up. But that effort fizzled, and he says it was “disappointing” to discover that the White House was actively pressuring Republicans not to sign on to that push.
“It’s tough if you’re a Republican senator to sign onto a letter, even a reasonable letter, when you’ve got folks like Jared Kushner and others lobbying against it,” Warner said.
Broadly, he believes Trump is hanging over the whole debate. Even though the Senate already voted unanimously to fund the government before Trump started demanding money for a border wall, Warner feels his Republican colleagues haven’t been willing to take action for straightforward political reasons: “You’ve got a lot of Republicans who are afraid of upsetting the president.”
So even as Republicans privately tell Warner that they’d like to end the shutdown, he doesn’t see much hope for any resolution soon. And that, he says, sits squarely on Trump’s shoulders.
“The president has said he was proud to own this shutdown,” Warner said. “This will be part of his legacy, which is already the worst legacy in modern American history.”
Arlington will celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a free annual event featuring local performers this Sunday (Jan 20).
“Supernatural” actor Christian Keyes is set to host Arlington’s MLK Tribute, which is now in its 50th year. The event will run from 5-6:30 p.m. at Wakefield High School.
Community members and county staff created the annual tribute one year after King’s assassination in 1968 as a way to bring the community together around King’s vision for social equality.
“Arlington’s beloved MLK tribute event is a joyful celebration of Dr. King and his powerful advocacy for social and economic justice, non-violence and empowerment that continues to serve as a beacon for our nation more than a half-century after his assassination,” Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said in a press release.
The program features music, dance and spoken word roles.
The lineup includes:
- Spoken word artist Outspoken Poetress (Audrey Perkins)
- Inspire Arts Collective
- Soloist Jackie Pate
- Soloist James Gibson
- Arlington resident Joy Gardner
- The Hoffman-Boston All Star Chorus led by Molly Haines
- Teen Network boardmembers
- Winners of the Arlington Public Schools’ MLK Literary and Visual Arts Contest
Guests will be seated on a first-come, first-served basis, and overflow space with a live stream of the program will be available if the auditorium reaches capacity. Anyone attending is encouraged to bring non-perishable goods to donate to Arlington Food Assistance Center.
Photo via Arlington County