Providing Access to Fresh, Healthy Food

Providing Access to Fresh, Healthy Food

WFCM’s second, client-choice pantry opens in Centreville.

Cutting the ribbon for WFCM’s new food pantry in Centreville.

Cutting the ribbon for WFCM’s new food pantry in Centreville. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.

Fairfax County is a great place to live – for those earning enough money to keep a roof over their heads, pay their bills and feed their families. But people struggling to make ends meet often turn to Western Fairfax Christian Ministries (WFCM) for help.

Serving some 4,500 residents in areas including Centreville, Chantilly, Oak Hill and Herndon, this nonprofit’s food pantry in Chantilly has long been a critical lifeline for them. However, realizing that many Centreville clients had a tough time getting to and from that pantry, WFCM recently opened a second one in the Centreville Square Shopping Center.

Although this new pantry is only about 6 miles from the Chantilly location, getting there from Centreville involves traveling along I-66 and Routes 28 and 29 – making it a challenge to reach for those without a car. And it certainly isn’t walkable. So a pantry in Centreville is a welcome relief for its users.

“The proximity to many neighborhoods in Centreville makes it convenient for clients to walk and avoid paying for transportation to pick up groceries,” explained WFCM Executive Director Harmonie Taddeo. “Though this second location is smaller than the Chantilly pantry, it’s stocked with all the essentials, including toiletries, and client feedback will help us ensure that the most-desired items are available.”

At 5948 Centreville Crest Lane, the new food pantry is open Tuesday-Wednesday, from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4:30-7 p.m.; Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; and by appointment (call 703-988-9656 and specify the Centreville pantry). It can serve up to 250 client households – more than 700 individuals – each month, 

The two full-time employees speak both English and Spanish; and at each scheduled appointment, recipients will be provided with two weeks’ worth of food. During the recent, grand-opening celebration, Taddeo discussed the ever-rising food demand WFCM has seen and acknowledged all those who made this second location possible.  

“We have experienced 14-16-percent increases, year-over-year, in the number of clients using our Chantilly Client Choice Food Pantry,” she said. “We know that the reduction in SNAP [federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] benefits, increased costs of groceries due to inflation, and continued underemployment are causing families to seek our services.”

“We’re grateful that we’re able to meet these growing needs through partnerships with local county government, businesses, congregations and individuals,” continued Taddeo. “And thanks to several key supporters, and everyone who donated during our Spring Fundraiser campaign and throughout the fiscal year, we’re able to take this giant step of opening a food pantry in Centreville to serve more families in western Fairfax County.” 

She stressed that having access to healthy food leads to food security – which is key to individuals achieving in other areas of their lives, such as school and work. And, she added, “Operating two, client-choice food pantries will make food more accessible for food-insecure families, on a sustainable and stable basis.” 

Yet, said Taddeo, “As we strive to mitigate food insecurity, we can only continue to expand our programs and services to reach more families through the power of collective impact. That is, working together with local partners to meet the needs of community members who qualify for WFCM’s services. And we’re thankful for all those who’ve chosen to join with us to make sure our neighbors have access to fresh, healthy food.”     

Calling it a “true community effort,” she said opening the Centreville food pantry wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the organization’s donors, partners and friends. They included:

Centreville Presbyterian, Centreville United Methodist and Christ Central Presbyterian churches, the Moxley Family Foundation, Elden and Allyn Sodowsky, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Wegmans Food Markets. Taddeo also expressed gratitude to the Capital Area Food Bank and Fairfax County Government for providing Capacity and Food Access Program grants. 

During the ceremony, Taddeo also thanked the elected representatives attending, including Del. Karrie Delaney (D-67), Sully District School Board Representative Stella Pekarsky, Supervisor Kathy Smith (D-Sully) and Jaclyn Marmol from U.S. Sen. Mark Warner’s office. Taddeo told them, “Your support and partnership ensure the communities you serve receive basic-needs services in a dignified manner that provides choice and long-term support.”

Next at the podium, Smith said establishing a second food pantry “shows WFCM’s commitment to addressing food insecurity in the community. Food pantries play a crucial role in providing food items to individuals and families experiencing financial difficulties. Having this pantry in Centreville is making it more convenient for residents here to access the resources they need, and many can walk to it.”

She thanked her fellow supervisors, plus county staff, for providing the funding used by WFCM to purchase new handcarts for this pantry. “These will assist our residents and families in bringing food items back to their home,” said Smith. “Opening this food pantry will allow WFCM to expand their reach and help more people, and I thank them for everything they do to make our community a better place.”

Also speaking was the Rev. Lynn Miller of King of Kings Lutheran Church in Chantilly. She’s a member of WFCM’s Board of Directors and served as its president during FY 2023. “This second site is truly an answer to lots of prayers, and we’re grateful to God for how this leap of faith has been blessed by all of you,” she said. “We believe God gave Harmonie and the WFCM staff the vision for this new way of helping in this area. And as a Board of Directors, it’s been our honor and joy to see the development of this new space and the deepening of the relationships we have with all of you who partner with us. We trust that God will continue to provide as, together, we provide and care for our neighbors in need.”

Taddeo then shared a Google review a client named Eileen posted after using WFCM’s Chantilly pantry. “This is the only food pantry I’ve ever been to where they offer fresh fruits and vegetables, along with dairy (eggs, milk, cheese, butter), meat and other things not necessarily found at traditional food banks,” she wrote. “Most of their donated items are from places like Wegmans and Whole Foods. 

“[I’m not] complaining, because I’m grateful to all food banks. When you’re hungry and can’t afford food, you’ll take what you can get. However, this place gives you options; you’re allowed to ‘shop’ and pick out your own items, as opposed to having them packed for you. This prevents food from being wasted.”

Taddeo said refrigerators and freezers stocked with fresh food from local grocery stores make WFCM’s choice model possible. And she thanked Capital Area Food Bank and Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services for their grants to purchase these appliances, plus Wegmans and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “for wonderful and plentiful food donations to stock our refrigerators and shelves.”

Then came the ribbon cutting, tours of the new pantry and special cookies supplied by Wegmans. First, though, Tammy Meyer with the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce added a few words. “On behalf of the Chamber, we’re excited for our Chamber member, WFCM,” she said. “And we welcome them to this new location to expand their reach in the Centreville community.”