AFAC Message Regarding COVID-19
Updated April 23, 2020
A Message from the Executive Director
After all that has happened in the last many weeks, it is time to update you on AFAC and our efforts to serve a growing number of families in need.
- First, you need to know we are all safe and working hard. The staff has taken on this challenge with enthusiasm and determination. I am very proud of their work and their care for our mission and the many families who come to us seeking assistance.
- Since February, we have seen the number of active referrals to AFAC increase by 30%. We expect this number to keep increasing. More and more new families continue to seek help from AFAC, in addition to the thousands of families that AFAC already serves. Our commitment remains as it always has been – to serve all in need in Arlington.
- In the last update, I mentioned we changed our distribution hours at our Nelson location and changed our distribution process to handing out pre-bagged food. A couple of weeks ago, we moved our distribution outside to limit access inside the building and prevent any potential contamination.
- Food donations are also being collected outside of the building. To be safe, all food donations are placed in large hampers dated and held for 3 days before they are sorted by our volunteers.
- From the start, we have been practicing social distancing – lines have been marked on the stairs and on the sidewalks to help keep families at the proper distances. Staff and volunteers are required to wear masks and gloves and we have insisted anyone coming for food to also wear masks.
- Many of our off-sites are still receiving food and have dedicated staff who are taking on the distribution of AFAC food within their facilities. At other sites, we have had to make major adjustments. With the support of the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington on North Vermont & Carlin Springs Road, we have established a large outdoor distribution site that is now serving upwards of 190 families. This site in particular will be growing and will serve as a model for additional sites that might be needed in the future.
- Arlington County has just formed the Coalition for a Hunger Free Arlington to coordinate food services among the Arlington Public Schools, AFAC, the Department of Human Services (DHS), and a number of organizations providing meals to those in need through school PTAs and local neighborhood groups. We are working with the Coalition to provide groceries that can be delivered to homebound individuals, those in quarantine, and those with active cases.
- One aspect of our services that we are not changing is the need for a referral. If an individual or a family comes to us in need, we will serve them. Then we ask that they call DHS or other approved agency to get a long term referral to us. By doing this we assure the family will get all of the benefits they may be eligible for (SNAP, WIC, TANF, etc) and are Arlington residents in need. The referral system also provides all of the data needed to determine food inventory levels, necessary food purchases, and very importantly identify any trends that may need to be addressed in our planning efforts.
Let me assure everyone that while the coronavirus is a huge challenge, AFAC is working hard and in a very planned way to continue our mission of serving all in need of food. We are extremely grateful for your continuous support. Because of your care, our morale and our determination could not be higher!
Thank you,Charles Meng
Executive Director & CEO
March 27, 2020
I wanted to share a few updates with some of the changes that have been implemented here at AFAC:
- On Monday, we started with our new distribution hours and procedures at our Nelson Street location. Weekday daytime distributions have been extended until 2pm while canceling the Tuesday and Thursday evening hours. From what I have seen so far, people are spacing themselves out through the extended hours, causing the lines to be shorter or non-existent.
- Our modified food distribution is nearly a grab-and-go method. Clients can still choose their frozen protein item, but the staples are prebagged by volunteers ahead of time. This has expedited our food distribution process and families are quickly out of the door and back to their homes.
- To make sure food is reaching our most vulnerable population, we have coordinated with the Aging and Disability Division of Arlington County’s DHS to deliver food directly to the homes of the elderly and disabled.
- All of these changes are being done to keep all of our families, volunteers, and staff as safe as possible during this time of uncertainty. Our procedures will continue to adapt to the changing landscape. It is imperative for AFAC to stay in operation, as our groceries may be the only food that some of our clients can access.
The changes to our distribution method and our heightened cleaning and sanitation procedures has added a lot of work to our operations team. To help us out, we have hired some temporary staff members, most of whom were recently laid off from their jobs at local restaurants. They will help with all the extra tasks so our full time warehouse staff can continue with their duties and volunteers can still bag and stock our shelves with food.
Thank you all for the tremendous support you have given to AFAC so far! Your monetary donations have helped us with our food purchases and cleaning supplies to keep our facilities and people safe. Your food donations have helped replace the donations we are not getting from the grocery stores. This is only the beginning of this pandemic and we hope we can continue to count on your help and support.Charles Meng
Executive Director & CEO
March 19, 2020
We are continuing to see families in need at all our food distribution sites and we are committed to staying open during this critical time. With news of local restaurants and businesses shutting down for the near future, we expect to see those who are surviving paycheck to paycheck at our doors seeking help.
The safety of our families, volunteers, and staff is paramount. We are following recommendations given by the CDC, state, and local agencies. We are also instituting social distancing by allowing fewer families in at a time in our waiting room and have markers outside where people should stand six feet apart from each other while waiting in our lines.
To streamline our operations to keep everyone safe, we will be modifying our food distribution hours at our Nelson St. location starting on Monday, March 23:
- Monday – Friday, 9:30 am – 2:00 pm
- Saturday, 9:00 – 11:00 am
By expanding our weekday hours, this will reduce the sizes of our lines as families have more time to come pick up groceries at our facility. We will not have evening distributions until further notice. Current clients are being notified of the changes so they can plan accordingly.
We are also working closely with the Aging & Disability Services Division in Arlington County so they can aid the most vulnerable clients with home deliveries. For more information, please visit our resources page.
Food donations from our local grocery stores have dropped dramatically. To make up for the loss of food, we have increased the volume of our food purchasing orders. We are asking the community to help us fill our food needs in these two ways:
- Donate money. Funds raised will go towards our food budget so we can continue to get wholesale prices directly from food vendors.
- You can also host community food drives. We are in need of nonperishable cans. Visit our food drive page for more information and for drop off locations.
Questions? Here are a list of contacts:
- Receiving food from AFAC: Stephanie Hopkins email@example.com or 571-384-1448 (English and Spanish)
- Monetary donations: Eric Bohn firstname.lastname@example.org or 571-384-1445
- Food drives and food donations: Mathilda Dack email@example.com or 571-384-1446
- Media inquiries: Jeremiah Huston firstname.lastname@example.org or 571-384-1444
- Volunteering inquiries: Danielle Rampton email@example.com or 571-384-1441
If you don’t hear from us immediately, please be patient and we’ll get back to you as we can.
Thank you all for the outpouring of support. Together, we will be able to get through this ordeal as a community.Charles Meng
Executive Director & CEO
March 12, 2020
The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) is closely monitoring the national and local developments regarding the spread of COVID-19 (the coronavirus).
AFAC is actively planning how we will continue to operate in the short and long term. Our planning begins with the recognition of our responsibility to continue our services to all in need in our community. Very simply, we are committed to our mission in good times and bad. We are not going to stop our services.
Our staff has been charged with developing a comprehensive plan which follows the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and state and local agencies. We have already instituted a heightened cleaning routine to minimize any potential transmission while at AFAC and lessen the fears that are obviously building among our families, our volunteers, and our staff. As this situation develops, we will take additional steps, as recommended by public health agencies to assure the health and safety of our community and all who depend on AFAC for assistance.
With this in mind, we have canceled our annual spring event, Shining a Light on Hunger, which was scheduled for March 26 at Army Navy Country Club. We have contacted our sponsors and attendees and we thank them for their understanding and their continued support. We have also suspended our Weekly Garden Talks series at Arlington Central Library for the meantime.
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. We are still accepting food donations. If you want to host a food drive in your community, please visit our food drive registration page for more details.
If this continues long-term, many of those working in the service industries may be affected which may result in a significant increase in the demand for our services. AFAC is committed to serving all in need and will remain ready and determined to serve the least fortunate and most vulnerable in our community.
We are evaluating our current volunteer needs daily. If you are registered volunteer, please check the volunteer calendar where we will add spots as needed. If you don’t have an active account, you can fill out our volunteer profile form to access the calendar, once your application has been processed by a staff member. For now, we are keeping our volunteer groups small and volunteers need to be 14 and older.
It is our sincere hope this virus will be contained but we are taking appropriate and prudent measures to be prepared and ready as this situation develops. We will keep the many families who rely on AFAC, our volunteers, staff, and all who help AFAC fully informed as we face this time of uncertainty.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you.Charles Meng
Executive Director & CEO