CAFBHunger affects 12% of the population living in the Washington metro area, and the Capital Area Food Bank is taking it off the map by connecting schools, businesses, partner non-profits and other stakeholders. A real community response is the key, and the CAFB’s Family Market at Manassas Park High School, where we offer fruits, vegetables, and groceries free of charge to parents of students at the school, is a great example of a community working together to solve hunger. 

When we approached the school district last year about a family market in Manassas Park, Dr. Bruce McDade, Superintendent of Manassas Park Schools, was quick to understand the need for an infusion of nutritious food into his school community. He has since been instrumental in encouraging City Council members, School Board office staff, and the Community Center to be part of the monthly Market.  Volunteering together, these supporters receive the food from the CAFB’s truck, and get the Family Market set up and ready to go. This school year’s market is providing an average of 10,000 pounds of food each month to 300 families.

Manassas Park is a small school district, but they have strong community ties and the support for the CAFB’s Family Market goes beyond the school administration. At the market I attended, the police and fire department were there to do some heavy lifting, and one of the firemen even repaired our smoothie bike so students could keep pedaling their way to a healthy snack!

Two of the CAFB’s food assistance partners in Manassas–House of Mercy and SERVE–are also involved in the Market.  House of Mercy donates books from their thrift store so that the children who attend the market can choose a book to take home while the family shops.  SERVE, another partner, coordinates a taste testing of a CAFB recipe and gives the recipe to families to take home and try in their own kitchen.  SERVE also talks to the more than 250 families in line at the distribution each month to offer SNAP application assistance, and to let them know about the other social services they offer.

Finally, in true community fashion, donors from the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia have again worked to pledge $32,000 to support the Manassas Park Family Market. The donors for this support include two Community Foundation donors (J.O.Y. Fund - $12,000 and the Nolan Family Fund - $5,000) and a $15,000 match from QMT Windchimes (based in Manassas Park). This support means the market is fully funded for another year! Financial support, when coupled with the on-the-ground work of volunteers, rounds out the community response.  This Family Market has been extraordinarily successful, and the driving force has been the collaborative partnerships and individuals in the community who are working to solve hunger and its companion problems: chronic undernutrition, heart disease, and obesity