Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

BBC Airs Segment on AFAC — The Arlington Food Assistance Center, which is seeing record food need and lines throughout the day, was profiled in a segment that aired on BBC World News this week. [Twitter]

Fares to Return on ART Buses — “ART buses will resume front door boarding and fare collection starting on Sunday, January 3, 2021. Riders will begin boarding buses through the front door and will pay their fare at the fare box using a SmarTrip card or exact change. The regular ART bus fare for a one-way trip is $2.00.” [Arlington Transit]

Teens Launch Hot Cocoa Company — “In July, Wakefield High School rising seniors Farah Bahr and Sithiya Reshmee (who goes by the nickname ‘Resh’) founded F&R Sweets, a line that includes chocolate-dipped strawberries, churro cheesecake (made with croissant dough, cream cheese filling and cinnamon sugar) and hot chocolate bombs… the bombs ($3-$10 each) grabbed my attention. They are bonbon-like orbs filled with mini marshmallows, Swiss Miss cocoa mix (regular, caramel or peppermint) and sometimes other add-ins.” [Arlington Magazine]

AWLA Treats Dog With Skin Condition — “On Sunday, we were very surprised when a brown-eyed dog with a severe skin infection and hair loss came through our doors. He desperately needs us, and together we can start him on the path to healing. Rufus was found all alone on the side of the road and was brought to AWLA for help.” [Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Patch]

Fort Myer Bowling Alley Back Open — “The [Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall] Bowling Center had a small grease fire last week that temporarily shut down operations. Today, the fire department and health inspections were completed and they were given approval to re-open at 2 p.m.” [Twitter]

Arlington is Soldier’s Resting Place, At Last — “An Army sergeant from Panama, Oklahoma who was killed during the Korean War has been identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency,” from the 55 boxes containing remains of American service members turned over by North Korea in 2018. “Rodgers will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, at a later date that has yet to be determined.” [Times Record]

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As coronavirus cases rise in Arlington County, the number of residents in need of fresh, free food for their families is also increasing.

Executive Director and CEO Charles Meng said the Arlington Food Assistance Center is seeing record-high numbers of visitors each week and month.   

“Between October and November, we saw a 9.4% increase, serving 3,440 families at some point during the month,” Meng said in an email. “(We) responded to 11,255 visits for food during the month, with many families having to visit multiple weeks during the month.”

This morning (Monday), families lined up at AFAC to receive a Christmas special — a whole frozen chicken — as well as fresh veggies, desserts, milk and eggs. Volunteers split time de-stalking Brussels sprouts and briskly moving families through the line. 

AFAC has seen people coming more frequently for food during the pandemic, likely because personal budgets that could pay for part of a family’s food needs are now slimmer or non-existent, according to Meng. He added that there has also been an uptick in people coming to AFAC for the first time.

“Many of our families are service workers at hotels, restaurants and airports — the hardest hit during the pandemic,” Meng said. “We are seeing the families who would normally access our services come more often and the new families are more regularly coming for needed food.”

The number of clients served by AFAC last peaked in August, with the organization serving 3,364 over the course of the month. When the pandemic started, the number of families being referred to AFAC jumped by 45%, Meng told MSNBC earlier this month. 

The demand for food at AFAC has attracted both national and international media attention, with a BBC reporter visiting the organization’s distribution center near Shirlington last week.

The rise in demand locally tracks with trends seen nationwide.

An Associated Press analysis of Feeding America data from 181 food banks in its network found the organization has distributed nearly 57 percent more food in the third quarter of the year, compared with the same period in 2019. 

Food and financial donations are enough to keep up with demand, but as numbers continue to increase, Meng told ARLnow more help will be needed. 

“We have sufficient supplies to address our needs for the foreseeable future,” he said. “Financial donations have also been good, but with increasing numbers we need all (the money) that people can spare.”

The annual Boy Scout food drive, which usually brings in 50,000 pounds, was cancelled, but several scout groups still came through with smaller-scale drives, bringing in 36,000 pounds, he said. 

Donations from grocery stores are about level with last year, and individual donations have been “very strong,” he said. 

Nationwide, food banks are seeing fewer volunteers during the pandemic, NPR reports. In some cases, the usual group of volunteers includes older people, who are staying home due to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

AFAC also runs on the work of volunteers, who Meng commended for making sure the food bank handles the increase in visits despite the danger posed by the pandemic.

“Distributing food is one of the things we do well,” he told ARLnow. “We have a dedicated cadre of volunteers who have stepped up to help — they are the real heroes of AFAC.” 

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The second annual Cranksgiving charity bike ride returns to Arlington this Saturday (Nov. 21), and this year the choose-your-own adventure experience includes COVID-19 safety rules.

“Cranksgiving is a way to have a lot of fun on a bike while also helping others during the holiday season,” said event organizer Sarah Billington. “COVID-19 has caused dramatically increased demand for food assistance, and we’re trying to engage people who ride bikes to help contribute to fulfilling that need.”

Solo and team riders (up to 10) get a scavenger hunt list of tasks, like buying up to $15 in high-demand food for the Arlington Food Assistance Center and ALIVE! in Alexandria. But due to the pandemic there is no designated starting point, and participants will need to take pictures of completed tasks and share progress on social media.

Participating organizations include The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail. A virtual award ceremony will conclude the Thanksgiving-themed event, which runs from 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

“Join your Cranksgiving family for a physically, but not socially distant Award Ceremony via Zoom to hangout, meet other participants, announce the winners, and earn fabulous prizes!” the event registration page says.

There are dozens of Cranksgiving bike events held around the country each year between September and December. The first was held in New York City in 1999.

Courtesy photo (above) from 2019

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Morning Notes

Raytheon Remaining in Rosslyn — “Raytheon Technologies Corp. has reached a deal to extend its stay in a Rosslyn office building nearly three years before its current lease was slated to expire. The Waltham, Massachusetts, defense contractor has signed a long-term lease renewal with Monday Properties for its roughly 116,000 square feet at 1100 Wilson Blvd.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Man Leaves ‘Bachelorette’ — “Our Arlington man Jason has departed the Bachelorette. Now all we’re left with is a man with the vaguely similar name of Chasen. Sad!” [Washingtonian]

Local Food Bank Expanding — “The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) is continuing its expansion efforts to ensure it has the ability to meet future needs of the community. Next up: Renovation of a newly acquired warehouse space at 2704 South Nelson St. next to the AFAC headquarters in the Four Mile Run corridor.” [InsideNova]

HQ2 to Help Fight Counterfeiting — “Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters appears to be the base for the company’s latest global effort to rein in faux goods sold on its e-commerce platform. The head of its so-called ‘Counterfeit Crimes Unit’ is based in Arlington, and the company was recently recruiting for the division at its Crystal City offices.” [Washington Business Journal]

TV Broadcast from Ballston — “Live, work and play in the Ballston area! FOX 5’s Kevin McCarthy visits Arlington County during our FOX 5 Fall Field Trip.” [Fox 5]

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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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Garden space at Arlington Public Schools is being used to grow produce for local pantries.

When schools closed for the academic year in March, the seeds were planted for victory gardens to grow in the place of classroom gardens.

Now, fresh produce like lettuce, peppers and tomatoes fill soil at Wakefield High School, Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Hoffman-Boston Elementary and Tuckahoe Elementary.

APS is partnered with Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture (FOUA) and Virginia Tech’s Arlington Virginia Cooperative Extension to maintain these gardens and organize volunteers.

“The community response has been amazing,” Emily Landsman, an FOUA board member, said in a press release. “The garden coordinators and school communities wanted to continue growing even though the schools were closed. To date, we have recruited over 70 volunteers and several Master Gardeners to assist the APS Garden Coordinators, and have donated over 500 pounds of fresh produce.”

The gardens were created as food pantries face the loss of key volunteers and the D.C. region sees increasing amounts of people in hunger as the area’s economy struggles.

FOUA’s goal is to grow 2,500 pounds of produce to donate to local food pantries. Area pantries where food is being donated include those at Bon Air Baptist Church and Columbia Baptist Church.

Local pantries have also received over 2,500 pounds of fresh produce from growing efforts in residential neighborhoods, churches and schools, according to FOUA.

For those who want to donate, Rock Spring Congregational church accepts produce donations on Mondays and Thursdays from noon-2 p.m. and Clarendon Presbyterian Church is holding a monthly food drive to help Arlington’s homeless population.

FOUA is currently seeking experienced volunteers to help in the gardens for one to four hours a week.

Photos via Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture

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Morning Notes

Reopening Starts Today — Arlington and Northern Virginia is starting Phase 1 of a gradual reopening of the regional economy today. You’ll be able to dine outside, get a haircut, and shop at non-essential businesses, with restrictions. Additionally, starting today, Virginia is requiring people to wear masks in indoor public spaces. Face coverings are also required in ART buses. [Arlington County, Arlington Transit]

Local Leaders Promote Mask Usage — Leaders of Northern Virginia’s local governments, including Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey, star in a new video encouraging the use of masks as the region reopens. [YouTube]

Arlington Orgs Providing Food During Pandemic — “Since May 1, CHFA volunteers have delivered 6,174 meals to homebound COVID-19 positive patients and immunocompromised clients, with plans to provide an additional 14,000 meals over the next two months, in partnership with Jeffrey’s Catering. Since the state of emergency declaration on March 15, referrals to AFAC increased by 36 percent, from 3,606 individuals to 4,902 on May 10.” [Arlington County]

Marymount Holding Graduation Parade — “On Friday afternoon, members of Marymount University’s graduating class will celebrate their accomplishments through a Graduation Parade, with faculty and staff cheering them on along a four-mile route that loops between Main Campus and the Ballston Center.” [Press Release]

Local Snakes Face Sticky Situation — “Our Animal Control officers are always on hand to help animals in need, even the scaly ones! Today we got a call that 2 snakes were stuck to a glue trap. Sgt Ballena and Officer Citrone worked hard to gently un-stick the snakes and release them safely nearby.” [@AWLAArlington/Twitter]

ARLnow Receives Google Grant — ARLnow has received a modest grant from Google’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund. The grant will allow ARLnow to host a paid intern this summer. The pandemic has negatively affected ARLnow’s business, and at the same time has also caused a shortage of internships nationwide. We’re grateful for Google helping us to offer an internship to a promising young journalist.

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Under normal times, the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) teams up with the National Association of Letter Carriers for a large food drive event called Stamp Out Hunger, which is held on the 2nd Saturday of every May.

Residents would leave food donations by their mailboxes and postal workers would pick up the food and deliver it to AFAC. On average, around 25,000 pounds of food donations is collected in this one-day event.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Stamp Out Hunger event was canceled. However, the need for food in the community is at an all-time high. AFAC has seen a 30% increase in active referrals since the end of February. More and more new families are seeking help in addition to the thousands of families AFAC already serves.

Through the month of May, you can help AFAC feed our neighbors in need in several ways. You can donate canned food (tomato products, vegetables, tuna and soups) and peanut butter at a local AFAC collection box set up in the community. Please do not donate food that is perishable, opened, expired or in glass jars.

You can also host a food drive in your own neighborhood. Register your food drive to request an AFAC food drive box if you would like one. There are template food drive flyers available that you can use and distribute digitally to help you get started.

Lastly, you can also donate funds so AFAC can purchase food (fresh fruit and vegetables, milk, eggs, frozen chicken, beans, rice, pasta and oatmeal) in bulk directly from vendors at wholesale prices.

For more information, visit www.afac.org/stamp-out-hunger-2020.

Note: This sponsored post was donated by ARLnow.

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Morning Notes

County May Get Million from CARES Act — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam “is considering a plan to distribute $3 billion of CARES cash using a formula that considers in economic need, a way to send more money to places like Lee County or Petersburg and less money to places like Alexandria and Arlington.” [@MichaelLeePope/Twitter, WVTF]

Arlington Trail Usage Way Up — “Trail counts are up 50% above average, on the weekends. Try an alternative route. Protect yourself and others by avoiding crowded trails.” [@BikeArlington/Twitter]

Dems Hold County Board Forum — Blue Virginia has video and notes from Sunday’s County Board special election candidates forum, held by Arlington Democrats. [Blue Virginia]

ACPD: Man Threw Brick Through Car Window — “At approximately 12:10 p.m. on April 30, police were dispatched to the report of destruction of property just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was driving on Columbia Pike when the suspect allegedly threw a brick through the rear window of the vehicle, causing it to shatter. The victim was not injured. Arriving officers located the suspect in the area and took him into custody without incident.” [Arlington County]

Marymount Faculty Member Makes ‘Fashion Masks’ — “Marymount University faculty member William Allen, an award-winning fashion designer, is using his creative talents and those of his students to help boost the amount of crucial PPE available at the Arlington Free Clinic.” [Press Release]

Sen. Kaine Volunteering at AFAC Today — “On Monday, May 4, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine will visit the Arlington Food Assistance Center, where he will meet with staff, tour the center, and volunteer to distribute food. The center has seen increasing demand amid the coronavirus pandemic and currently distributes groceries to over 2,400 families each week in Arlington.”

TSA Workers Create Food Bank at DCA — “Transportation Security Administration employees at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) have established a free food and toiletries pantry to assist employees in the airport community who have been laid off or seen their work hours and paychecks reduced due to the significant decrease in travelers as a result of the pandemic.” [Press Release]

Photo courtesy @EthanDevries_/Twitter

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A pair of local nonprofits have joined with Amazon to help families in Arlington’s affordable housing get access to science, technology, engineering and math resources during the pandemic.

Rosie Riveters, an Arlington-based non-profit that focuses on getting girls between 4-14 years old interested in STEM, partnered with Arlington Housing Corporation (AHC) Inc. — a local affordable housing nonprofit — and Amazon to deliver STEM kits to some families. These are kits put together by Rosie Riveters and include the materials for six different projects, access to online lessons, and additional materials like notebooks, pencils and rulers.

Rosie Riveters said Amazon donated gift cards and the supplies to assemble the kits, as well as helped to deliver them to AHC.

An initial 15 kits were given out in the first round, with 30 more planned to be delivered over the next few weeks, Rosie Riveters told ARLnow, adding that the boxes are delivered with Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) distributions.

Eight boxes were also sent to community center participants and the supplies for 60 more boxes will be delivered over the next few days and distributed to other program partners.

“Rosie Riveters is proud to work with Amazon and AHC Inc. to bring fun and engaging STEM kits and essential learning materials to children in need,” said Brittany Greer, Executive Director of Rosie Riveters, in a statement. “Now more than ever enrichment opportunities like these are vitally important. We can not thank Amazon enough for helping to provide the resources and logistics needed to allow Rosie Riveters to continue our mission to engage and inspire girls aged 4-14 in STEM.”

Photo courtesy Rosie Riveters

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