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
Arlington’s local food bank is urging furloughed federal workers to swing by for free groceries, should times be getting tough as the government shutdown drags on.
The Arlington Food Assistance Center is reminding all Arlingtonians that anyone having trouble making ends meet is eligible to pick up a bag of groceries from the food bank on a one-time basis.
All you have to do is provide a government-issued photo ID and proof of your address (either on an ID or a bill mailed to your home). AFAC stresses that it has “does not impose income limits — ever,” making one-time assistance available to any furloughed fed missing out on paychecks these days.
“If your bills are high, your paychecks are withheld, or you just need something to get you through the week, AFAC is available to you,” the food bank wrote on its website.
Anyone looking for some more extensive help can also apply for three months of food, with a referral from the county’s Department of Human Services or an Arlington Public Schools social worker.
The food bank works to provide families, at a minimum, with staples like milk, fruit, vegetables, cereal, canned goods and other dry goods. AFAC operates three food distribution centers around the county, at the following places and times:
AFAC Nelson: 2708 S. Nelson Street, Arlington 22206
Monday to Friday: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Tuesday and Thursday evenings: 7:00 – 8:00 PM
Saturday morning: 9:00 – 11:00 AM
Gunston Community Center: 2700 S. Lang Street, Arlington 22206
Thursday evening: 7:00 – 8:00 PM
Clarendon United Methodist Church: 606 N. Irving Street, lower level, Arlington 22201
Saturday morning: 9:30 – 10:30 AM
Arlington’s also planned a variety of hiring events and financial management workshops for federal workers.
Two events scheduled for later this week are meant to reduce financial burdens facing furloughed workers.
The Arlington Public Library system plans to host a workshop on Thursday (Jan. 17) to help furloughed federal employees with their budgets and access county resources.
Entitled “Finding Help During Difficult Financial Times,” the workshop will provide how-to’s on the following:
- creating or redoing your budget, with information from a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau financial coach
- applying for food stamps and Medicaid services available through Arlington County’s Department of Human Services
- taking advantage of food assistance from the Arlington Food Assistance Center
After the presentation, Latrice Robinson, a financial coach and contractor who is a part of the CFPB Financial Coaching Program, will be on hand to answer any questions, along with AFAC Client Services Manager Lily Duran and outreach staff from the Public Assistance Division in DHS.
The workshop will take place from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Barbara M. Donnellan Auditorium in the Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street).
Arlington Public Schools also announced today (Tuesday) that it will hold a job fair on Friday (Jan. 18) for federal employees interested in substitute teaching.
The job fair will run from noon to 4 p.m. at the Syphax Education Center (2110 Washington Blvd). Participants should bring two forms of identification to the job fair and are encouraged to submit their application beforehand.
APS is hosting a substitute Job Fair for federal employees from noon-4 p.m. on Fri, Jan. 18 at the Syphax Education Center (2110 Washington Blvd.) Second Floor Room 254. Submit your application at https://t.co/5yYbuKdMQe and make sure to bring two forms of ID. pic.twitter.com/tbCUpAmyns
— Arlington Public Schools (@APSVirginia) January 15, 2019
(Updated at 9:40 a.m.) Good Sweat, an indoor cycling studio, is set to open in Rosslyn’s Colonial Village Shopping Center in early 2019.
Alessandra Hashemi, the founder of Good Sweat, told ARLnow that she is aiming for a March opening.
More than 180 people helped Good Sweat raise roughly $26,000 in 21 days, surpassing the studio’s goal of $25,000 in 25 days, the company posted on Facebook on Oct. 21. The money will fund the opening next year at 1711 Wilson Blvd.
The studio plans to have metered bike and offer classes in the mornings throughout the week and in the evenings on weekdays, according to a brochure sent to ARLnow.
“I have been indoor cycling for over 10 years, and I have seen it all (the good, the bad, the underwhelming),” Hashemi, said in the brochure. “Indoor cycling classes can be cathartic if you have amazing coaches, music and motivation.”
The brochure says that a percentage of every purchase will get invested in the community by hosting subsidized rides for low-income individuals and donating to a different local nonprofit every month, including Urban Alliance, A-SPAN Doorways for Women and Families and Arlington Food Assistance Center.
Good Sweat held two pop-up events earlier this year — a yin yoga class in February and a body weight boot camp in August.
The studio is currently selling discounted packages, some of which include pre-opening access, ranging from one drop-in class to unlimited access for three months.
McChrystal Speaks Out Against Lee — Amid the furor over changing the name of Washington-Lee High School, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who attended W-L, says it’s time to set aside icons like Robert E. Lee and “combat our desire to mythologize our history and our leaders.” [Washington Post]
Fill the Cruiser Tonight — The Arlington County Police Department is holding one of its three planned “Fill the Cruiser” holiday toy drive events today from 2-6 p.m. at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall. “A cruiser will be located in the food court next to the Christmas tree,” ACPD notes. [Arlington County]
E-CARE Stats — This month’s Arlington E-CARE disposal and recycling event collected more than 100,000 pounds of hazardous household materials and used electronics products. [Twitter]
AFAC Helps Less Fortunate Celebrate Thanksgiving — The Arlington Food Assistance Center gave away 2,500 turkeys, along with other Thanksgiving staples, over the past week. Hunger remains an unresolved issue at a time when Amazon’s future arrival will likely exacerbate inequality and housing unaffordability in Arlington. [Washington Post]
Nearby: Big New Development in Falls Church — “The development team of EYA, PN Hoffman and Regency Centers was chosen by the Falls Church City Council Monday night to orchestrate a dense and diverse $500 million development of 10.3 acres of City-owned land where its George Mason High School currently sits,” near the West Falls Church Metro station. [Falls Church News-Press]
Democrat Matt de Ferranti wants to end child hunger in Arlington if he wins a spot on the County Board next week, and he says he can achieve that goal in the next four years.
In debates, campaign mailers, and his official platform, de Ferranti has pledged to ensure that no child in the county goes hungry by the time his first term on the Board would be up in 2022.
It’s a target that some observers think Arlington can meet, but gives others pause. And, crucially, it’s a key area of difference between de Ferranti and the man he’s hoping to unseat: independent John Vihstadt, the first non-Democrat to sit on the Board since 1999.
Both of the contenders for the lone Board seat on the ballot this fall want to reduce hunger in the county, of course. Yet the pair differs on how to achieve that goal, and how much the Board should prioritize it in the first place, providing a clear contrast between candidates who otherwise broadly agree on many of the pressing issues facing the county.
“The differences between me and my opponent are not always in votes, they’re often in agenda and focus,” de Ferranti told ARLnow. “I think we have to call Arlingtonians to be committed to this equity and be a caring, compassionate community on hunger in ways that we haven’t been called to until this point.”
Vihstadt and de Ferranti agree that the county could use more data on hunger and food insecurity in Arlington, and say they’d support a new study of the matter. The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) teamed up with Virginia Tech to release a paper on the matter back in 2012, and both Board contenders are eager for an update to that document.
Yet the incumbent admits to being a bit puzzled that de Ferranti is bringing up the issue so frequently in the first place, and would much rather wait for more information before acting.
“He is the only one who’s talking about critical gaps in child hunger,” Vihstadt said. “I haven’t heard an explanation of why we’re doing this by 2022 and why we’re only talking about child hunger versus senior hunger. He’s raised a good issue, but I would want to see more analysis on this.”
De Ferranti says he’s so focused on child hunger, specifically, because research links food insecurity to stunted development among children, and suggests that kids learn less if they come to school hungry. But he’s also relying on data from AFAC, the most prominent Arlington nonprofit focusing on hunger, claiming the numbers demand urgent attention to child hunger.
Charlie Meng, the executive director of AFAC, says de Ferranti is right to do so, and notes that he’s raised the issue with the County Board. In data Meng provided to ARLnow, AFAC has indeed seen a steady increase in the number of people requesting meals through the center, and an increase in the number of children served, specifically.
The numbers show that, in fiscal year 2014, AFAC served meals to 3,034 children. That number crept slowly upward over the years, and AFAC served 4,349 children in fiscal year 2018, an increase of about 43.3 percent over those four years.
“The question to the county is always: what’re your priorities?” Meng said. “It’s not always the government’s responsibility, but better support and coordination would go a long way to solving this issue.”
Meng believes that de Ferranti is absolutely correct that the county could effectively cut the number of hungry kids to zero within the next few years, “especially if the coordination and the desire to is there.
On that front, Meng thinks a good place to start would be sending AFAC more money each year.
The county currently allocates about $478,000 annually to help the nonprofit stay afloat, but Meng says AFAC largely depends on private donors to afford its roughly $7.5 million yearly operating budget. For the last two years, the county tacked on an extra $50,000 in one-time funds to send to the center, but the Board declined to do so this year amid a tight budget crunch.
Meng says he hasn’t needed to cut back on any of his programs after losing out on that money, but he has had to work a bit harder to fundraise to make up the difference. He believes that restoring that money, and even sending AFAC a bit more, would make a huge difference in helping the nonprofit identify hungry kids and reach them.
“They give me $478,000, and I give them $7 million in services,” Meng said. “The deal I give these guys is crazy. If you take money away, I can make it up, but it never makes anything easy.”
De Ferranti says he strongly disagreed with the Board’s decision not to send AFAC the additional funding. Even in a challenging budget environment, he argues “we should not be cutting back when the need in terms of the number of families per month has not decreased.”
Vihstadt is sympathetic to Meng’s case, but points out that AFAC already receives more county financial support than most nonprofits in Arlington. Similarly, he said the Board decided not to tack on any more funding in this year’s budget because members trusted in Meng’s fundraising prowess.
“There are nonprofits who are struggling and who do great work: AFAC is not one of them,” Vihstadt said. “I know he used that $50,000 reduction as an opportunity to raise money. I would love to know how much he raised as a result.”
Others working on the issue of child hunger across the state wonder if a focus on services in county schools might be the surer way for Arlington to reach de Ferranti’s goal.
Claire Mansfield, the director of No Kid Hungry Virginia, says her organization largely focuses on making sure schools offer “healthy, nutritious” meals for breakfast and lunch, as that’s generally the easiest way to reach kids who might not know where their next meal is coming from at home.
She’s particularly interested in making sure that schools not only serve a healthy breakfast, but do so as part of the regular school day, which can “remove the stigma” around students looking for a free or reduced price meal.
Mansfield points out that some, but not all of Arlington’s schools offer breakfast in the classroom — Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia says Randolph Elementary, Oakridge and Hoffman-Boston all do so, though Randolph only offers it to preschoolers and kindergarteners.
Mansfield says expanding such programs can have a huge impact, and that Oakridge has already seen a difference since starting breakfast in the classroom. According to her data, only 24 percent of students at the school eligible for free and reduced lunch ate breakfast in the 2014-15 school year; by last year, that number was up to 85 percent.
She added that schools can be key destinations for hungry kids looking to receive meals over the summer. Bellavia said the school system set up nine such “summer meal sites” this year, and Mansfield believes such options are a key way to fill in “gaps” in reaching families in need.
However, she’s a bit more hesitant than Meng to declare that simply following her prescriptions could definitively end child hunger in the county.
“I’m not one to put a timeline on that per se; if I could do it tomorrow I would do it tomorrow,” Mansfield said. “It’s just a case of making a commitment and saying, ‘We know how to solve this and we’re going to do what it takes.'”
Meng says he’s more than willing to do more work with county schools — in fact, one of his priorities is to expand AFAC’s “summer backpack program,” partnering with schools to reach hungry kids when class isn’t in session.
But to do so, he needs more money, and he says that’s where the County Board’s leadership matters on this question.
“We hear all the time, ‘Where are these people who need food?'” Meng said. “All you have to do is look around. Where do you think these people come from who are washing your dishes, doing your laundry, getting paid $7.25 an hour? We have them in this community. But we may not very long.”
Photo via @NottinghamSCA
Flash Flood Watch Issued for Arlington — Arlington, D.C. and points west are under a Flash Flood Watch today, starting at 10 a.m., as the remnants of Hurricane Florence drop heavy rain on the area. [Twitter]
New Food Distribution Site in Ballston — “The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) has joined with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) to open a new food-distribution site at The Springs, an apartment complex in the Ballston area. The site will distribute food on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m., and will serve eligible residents from the apartment as well as neighboring APAH communities.” [InsideNova]
Rosslyn Fire Station Leveled — Rosslyn’s Fire Station 10 has been demolished as construction proceeds on a new fire station on the ground floor of a new development. [Twitter]
‘Coffee With a Cop’ Planned — “Wednesday, October 3 is National Coffee with a Cop Day and the Arlington County Police Department is hosting two events with our Community Outreach Teams to celebrate. Community members are invited to join police at this informal event to ask questions, voice concerns, get to know their neighbors, interact with the Community Outreach Teams and meet officers from other sections of the department.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf