WFCM staff members in their garden that helps provide clients with fresh vegetables. Standing, from left are Grace Foust, Client Services Director; Harmonie Taddeo, Executive Director; Jennie Bush, Community Outreach Manager; and Debbie Culbertson, Food Pantry Assistant Manager/Volunteer Coordinator. Sitting, from left are Dolly Bonta-Reavis, Client Intake Assistant; Pamela Montesinos, Food Pantry Director; and Mary Ellen D'Andrea, Development Director. (Not pictured: Lillian Diaz, Client Support Specialist). Orange is the national color of hunger, and their Hunger Action Month T-shirts read, “Together we can #EndHungerHere.”
Photo Courtesy of Harmonie Taddeo
Western Fairfax Christian Ministries (WFCM) is joining food banks throughout the nation this month to make people aware of the existing hunger crisis and help local neighbors in need. The Chantilly-based nonprofit works all year ’round to ensure that people in western Fairfax County are housed and fed. And now, as part of the Feeding America network, it’s letting the community know that September is Hunger Action Month.
Pamela Montesinos, director of WFCM’s client-choice food pantry, has coordinated a month-long awareness effort including special T-shirts for volunteers and staff and food drives at a local farmers market. The organization will also further serve its clients via a client fair at the end of September.
“Hunger Action Month is a time for us to partner with food banks across the country to raise awareness about food insecurity and to unite with our local community for new solutions,” said Montesinos. “At WFCM, we have expanded the variety of fresh produce our clients have access to through partnerships with Capital Area Food Bank, Imperfect Produce, a local farmers market and our own garden project. It’s important because fresh fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet.”
There are also many ways the local community can get involved and lend a hand during Hunger Action Month. WFCM Executive Director Harmonie Taddeo suggests the following actions:
Shopping and sharing at the farmers market: During September, WFCM is partnering with Community Foodworks to glean vegetables and other items for its clients from the Chantilly Farmers Market, which is open Thursdays from 3:30-7 p.m., until Nov. 11. It’s in the parking lot of St. Veronica Catholic Church, 3460 Centreville Road in Chantilly. Customers may pick up fruits and vegetables for their own families, plus some to share with others. A donation box will be on site.
Donating the pantry’s most-needed items: Donate directly to WFCM or any other local food pantry. Consider flour, vegetable oil, sugar, canned fruit, juice, cereal, oatmeal or canned meat. WFCM’s food pantry is at 4511 Daly Drive in Chantilly (703-988-9656).
Hosting a food drive: Consider holding a food drive at your school, business, church or in your neighborhood.
Volunteering: Contact WFCM or another local food pantry to ask about volunteer opportunities. Many times, there are options in the evening or on Saturday, in addition to weekday volunteer opportunities.
Donating money: Monetary donations help service organizations such as WFCM keep operating so they may continue to help those in need. People may make either one-time or monthly gifts to help keep healthy food on their neighbors’ tables.
“The bottom line is that it will take a collaborate effort and many strategies to solve the hunger crisis.” said WFCM Board President Andrew Casteel. “The statistics are staggering. According to the USDA, nearly 40 million people in the U.S. are food-insecure – meaning they lack consistent access to food that will keep them healthy.”
But, he added, “We are starting right in our community to make a difference. At WFCM, we serve more than 400 client families per month, providing fresh produce, milk, eggs, meat, bread and other essentials to ensure that they’re not only fed, but offered the opportunity to make nutritious meals. I encourage all of our community businesses, churches and families to join us in this important work.”
Since 1987, WFCM has been a critical safety net for residents in western Fairfax County struggling to make ends meet. Besides food, it also provides emergency financial assistance for rent, utilities and other basic needs, as well as financial counseling and budget classes, a school backpack program and spiritual support. For more information, go to wfcmva.org/hungeraction or follow Western Fairfax Christian Ministries on Facebook or Linked In.