Fairfax County Public Library’s annual food drive “Read and Feed” is now underway, replacing the “Food for Fines” program.
The county library system is asking residents to drop off “unexpired, commercially produced food items” as well as new, reusable grocery bags and kitchen tools to any of its 23 branches during their regular operating hours.
Last year, “Read and Feed” replaced the “Food for Fines” program after FCPL stopped charging overdue fines on most materials. The program had given library cardholders a reduction on fines based on the number of donated items.
Donations go to the nonprofit Food For Others (FFO), which will then distribute the items across the county. Food For Others provides food to about 3,000 families and meals to 3,500 FCPS students at 44 schools every week, per the county’s press release.
That represents only a small percentage of students in need, though. There are another 13 schools on the waitlist.
There was about a 30% increase in terms of families that FFO helped between 2021 and 2022, FFO’s director of development and outreach Anna Slaten said in a county press release.
It’s anticipated that inflation over the past year will make the need even greater. Relatedly, donations in the summer of 2022 were down 30% from the previous year.
“With inflation, not just our clients are feeling the effects, but our donors are also,” Slaten said.
Additionally, pandemic-era emergency SNAP benefits ended last month, leaving locals looking for even more help.
FFO recently expanded its Merrifield warehouse to address the growing need.
Library branches across the county are accepting pretty much all canned foods, though there are a few items that FFO needs in particular:
- Canned tomato products (crushed, peeled, diced, etc.), 4 oz. – 1 lb.
- Canned meat (chicken, turkey, or seafood), 2 oz. – 15 oz.
- Rice, 16 oz. packages
- Spaghetti sauce, 14 oz. – 1 lb. (ideally in cans instead of glass)
- Canned fruit (packed in fruit juice instead of syrup) 11 oz. – 20 oz.
- Dried or canned beans (black, kidney, pinto, etc.)
- Fruit juice (100% juice) 32 oz. – 64 oz.
- New or clean reusable grocery bags
- Can openers
Items not accepted include food that is not labeled, food that’s cooked, opened items, and canned food that is more than three years past its expiration date.
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