Some 32 percent of the students in Fairfax City public schools are on the free or reduced-price meal program, and 14 percent of City children don’t have enough food to eat. So, a group of people recently got together to do something about it with an event called Fairfax Cares.
More than 300 volunteers gathered on a Saturday morning and packed 13,100 ready-to-cook meals for these students. It was done via a partnership among City of Fairfax Schools, nonprofit Generosity Feeds and City Councilman Jeff Greenfield, the event’s honorary chairman. The meals were distributed to the City’s four public schools to be given through their backpack programs to students who go hungry outside school hours.
“Ourisman Fairfax Toyota was our first and main sponsor, donating $5,000, and honestly was the reason we were able to do it,” said City schools spokeswoman Carrie Dorsey. “Jeff Greenfield also was a huge help, as well. He raised most of the money and was instrumental in getting this from plans to reality.”
“This event was important from several perspectives,” said Greenfield. “It was a great opportunity to bring our four school communities together to work on an issue many don’t know exists – hunger. And parents, students and teachers came together to help other school children who experience hunger throughout the year.”
“What an amazing experience to see so many people come together to pack shelf- stable meals that will be used to help feed children and their families,” he continued. “This event is a reminder about why Fairfax City is so special – people helping people.”
Agreeing, Bob Hager COO/partner, Ourisman Automotive of Virginia, said, “We at Ourisman are proud and grateful to be an active supporter of local charities. We love to help those who are helping people in need.”
LANIER PRINCIPAL Erin Lenart said her school was “excited to host this event. It was a fantastic opportunity to bring the City together around supporting our students who are food insecure, and it was an outstanding community builder, as well. We are committed to any opportunity we have to engage the entire community in the work we do.”
“The ‘buzz’ at the event – and just knowing that people’s volunteer work would go to support people they may or may not directly know – was incredible,” she added.
And it went so well; it felt like a race to get the meals done, and we had volunteers of all ages.”
Watching everyone pitch in and help that day, said Lenart, made her feel both “humbled and proud to be a part of this community and all that Fairfax City has to offer our students. Seeing business owners, residents and fellow students representing all walks of life, who came to rally around one incredible cause, was amazing to be a part of. The effort of those volunteers will be an immense gift for many of our students and families.”
Greenfield and Dorsey are both members of the City’s Hunger Task force, and she asked the group if it wanted to participate in the event. After getting the go-ahead from the school principals and School Board, things moved forward. And City Schools Superintendent Peter Noonan called it an “awesome success.”
“We were so proud out how our community of schools pulled together in support of our neighbors that are food insecure,” he said. “In our schools, we have a significant number of students – over 40 percent in some schools – who are on free and/or reduced lunches. The meals we packed will be distributed through the end of the summer.”
IN MANY CASES, said Noonon, the only meals City students get are the breakfasts and lunches they receive from school. “Our event helps bridge the gap from when our kids leave school in the afternoon to when we see them again the next day,” he explained. “If community members are interested in helping our school families in need, they should reach out to the school counselors, as they have the most interaction with our families and can see that the resources get to those who are food insecure.”
As for Generosity Feeds, it works to feed hungry children throughout the U.S. by spurring local businesses, schools, churches and civic organizations to collaborate on packaging 10,000 or more meals in less than two hours.
“Fairfax City Schools did an incredible job mobilizing City Council and top business leaders into their event,” said Ron Klabunde, Generosity Feeds president. “Through their exceptional work, local businesses leaders provided funding for the food, local schools provided eager volunteers and City leaders attended to show their support.”