FCPS Offers Free Breakfast and Lunch This Summer to All Children 18 and Younger
Fairfax County Public Schools summer break has begun, and no-cost breakfast and lunch are available to all children 18 years of age and younger at FCPS sites across the county. There is no registration involved. The division is participating in the Summer Food Service Program, and the first meals began on Monday, June 26.
Meals are the same for all children. All sites are closed on July 3 and July 4.
Meals are provided on a first-come, first-served basis at the sites and times listed below and served in the school cafeteria, with a few exceptions noted in the list below. Find a meal site at https://bit.ly/3pjef8N.
In a collaborative effort, StarKist, Feed the Children and Reston-based nonprofit Cornerstones joined hands for their second annual food distribution on Thursday, June 22. The reason behind their action is the presence of hunger and food insecurity in Fairfax County, worst than ever, even during the pandemic.
"Everybody wants to look in the rearview mirror and say goodbye [to the pandemic], but families are in greater need than ever," says Kerrie Wilson. “Honestly, in the 20-some years I’ve been working here at Cornerstones, I have never seen such a need.” Wilson is the CEO of Cornerstones. When the pandemic-related Supplemental SNAP benefits ended, with the last issuance at the end of February 2023, many individuals relying on this lifeline to avoid hunger turned to local nonprofits and schools for assistance.
"We've seen a 30 to 50 percent increase in people coming to our food pantry since the Supplemental SNAP benefits ended, and it had an immediate impact ... The cost of inflation, the rising cost of rent — everything has taken a chunk out of the household budget," Wilson adds. These factors have contributed to a significant reduction in available funds.
On the morning of June 22, Wilson crosses the parking lot of Saint John Neumann, the distribution site. A forklift repeatedly unloads pallets stacked high with boxes from the 53-foot Feed the Children truck. The contents of the delivery are valued at $100,000. It is shelf-stable food, much of it high-protein fish from StarKist. Many in our community, one of the wealthiest in the U.S., cannot afford enough food, especially protein, to prevent hunger.
The Northern Virginia Regional Commission reports, “The five largest jurisdictions of Northern Virginia all have [household] incomes higher than the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States.” Out of the 829 jurisdictions with a population of 65,000 or more in the USA, two of the ten highest incomes are located in Northern Virginia, and those include Loudoun County (1st) and Fairfax County (3rd).”
StarKist opened its corporate and administrative headquarters in Reston on April 5, 2022. It pledged then that the company would conduct a community distribution event in partnership with Feed the Children and Cornerstones to provide food and hygiene items to 400 families at risk of being food insecure that summer of 2022, according to a news release dated the same and provided by StarKist Co.
Alex Iams is the executive vice president of Fairfax County Economic Development. He thanks StarKist employees for being part of the local economy. “Having you here not only diversifies our tax base but makes our community an even better place,” he says.
The event that unfolds on June 22, 2023, marks a remarkable display of teamwork and collaboration. Countless individuals, business and community advocates, faith partners, and volunteers from StarKist and Cornerstones unload goods, set up tents, and direct the vehicles of the 400 families, individuals, and seniors identified by Cornerstones. The cars, trucks and vans, many with multiple groups inside, queue along Lawyers Road and then snake through the church's parking lot.
Individuals scurry about as the light rain falls, busily preparing the four tented table stations. They stack the donation boxes in a specified order. With military-like precision, the volunteers in teams 1, 2, 3, and 4 will simultaneously fill four vehicles with the precious boxes and wave them off, expediting the distribution process. The commotion unfolds, and children roll down their windows, lean out, and eagerly watch the scene. Charlie the Tuna waddles around the lot, high-fiving everyone he meets. The air fills with the pulsating beats of music compliments of the onsite DJ.
"The distribution couldn't have come at a more important time for our community," Wilson says. She is inside the church hall, preparing for the opening ceremony. She and Chae-Ung Um, president and CEO, StarKist mingle with Julie Laird Davis, senior vice president, Feed the Children; Marlon Dubuisson from U.S. Rep. Gerry Connally’s office; Walter Alcorn, Hunter Mill Supervisor; Alex Iams, executive vice president, Fairfax County Economic Development; and Melanie Meren, Hunter Mill representative on the Fairfax County School Board.
According to Meren, FCPS can only do so much. “This is a real crisis for Fairfax," Meren says. The division relies on federal programs that blossomed during Covid, but these have dried up.
"Schools cannot do this alone," Meren says. "We see crisis-worthy tactics like teachers trying to get food to kids. ... We have 66,000 children in Fairfax County Public Schools who receive free and reduced-price lunch during the school year.”
To give a visual of what 66,000 children look like, if the group entered National Park, the baseball stadium in D.C. and one by one sits down so no seat is left empty, 25,000 children would remain outside the gate. Nat’s Park has 41,339 seats. Hunger hits Fairfax County especially hard because of its high cost of living, high rents, and low-paying jobs for many people trying to call this place home.
Chae-Ung Um, president and CEO of StarKist, discusses how protein is essential for growth, especially for children. Um tells how he liked