Rain pattered off of umbrellas and warehouse awnings onto people waiting to pick up their food supplies outside the crowded Arlington Food Assistance Center Wednesday morning. Idling vehicles stretched to the end of the block as people splashed towards them through puddles, with half gallons of milk in one hand and Thanksgiving Day turkeys tucked under their arms. With the holiday season approaching, this week is often the busiest of the year that the center sees, said Executive Director Charlie Meng.
“Its about a need, a need people can understand,” said Meng about the roll AFAC plays in helping less fortunate people eat at all times, not just around the holidays.
This week, AFAC is handing out 1,600 turkeys it purchased for people who are in need this holiday season.
On average AFAC provides 180 people a day with food, and supports 1,500 families in Arlington County, according to Meng. Food banks and charities, covering 65 percent of the center’s provisions, donate 1.2 million pounds of food annually to the center.
The food pantry provides an assortment of groceries to its clientele. Fresh vegetables, grains, dried beans specifically for Hispanic families, and even sometimes a single jar of caviar for a Russian family are prepared and packaged by volunteers.
From now until Dec. 15 the center is hosting their “Holiday Challenge” food drive. The group hopes to collect 1,500 each of two-pound bags of sugar, two-pound bags of flour and eight to 15 ounce bottles of cooking oil. People wishing to donate food or funds should visit AFAC’s website or call the center during office hours, Meng said. It is located just off Four Mile Run.
AFAC is not the only charity group that is preparing for the holiday season, though. The Assembly of God Church in Buckingham is preparing for their Thanksgiving Day Service and Dinner for the needy and homeless.
For the past six years the church has operated a kitchen five days a week in the evenings where it feeds approximately 150 hungry people at long shared tables. The church spends between $300 and $400 a week in addition to help from food chains like KFC and The Cheesecake Factory that donate their unused food, according to Associate Pastor Lynn Carter. She visits three Chipotles at the end of the week in Arlington County to pick up the restaurant’s left overs.
“This is what we feel the Lord wants us to do,” said Carter. “We need to feed people.”