|Culmore residents collect produce|
Many of the families living in the Culmore community would have a hard time feeding their families if it weren’t for the twice-monthly food distribution program organized by the Legal Aid Justice Center.
On a recent rainy Thursday morning, about 80 people, most of them immigrants from Central America, lined up in the parking lot by the 7-Eleven on Glen Carlyn Drive in Bailey’s Crossroads to collect fresh produce – potatoes, cabbages, corn, sweet potatoes, watermelon halves – and packaged meals and drinks, all from the Capital Area Food Bank.
Many of those who came to pick up food are facing severe financial hardships and often face empty cupboards at the end of the month, says Alejandra Caballero, a community developer with the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services. Many Culmore residents are undocumented, and they don’t ask for financial assistance because they don’t want to do anything to jeopardize their chances of having their status adjusted, she says, even though children born in the U.S. are eligible for federal aid.
The Culmore food distribution takes places on the first and fourth Thursday of the month. The owner of the 7-Eleven provides trash bags and cleaning supplies. Day laborers who congregate in front of the store help with the food delivery and cleanup.
The program is not just about handing out food, though. It’s also an opportunity to share information and build community. Claudia Quevedo, a community organizer with the Legal Aid Justice Center, spoke to people waiting in line about various issues, including the recent homicide in Culmore, the status of a lawsuit against the landlord of the Olde Salem Village apartments, and.an upcoming Latino Festival in Seven Corners (Oct. 18 at the Willston Center).
The Legal Aid Justice Center, a group that provides legal representation to low-income people, also distributes food from the Capital Area Food Bank at the end of Wadsworth Court in the Fairmont Gardens apartments in Annandale on the second and third Wednesday of the month.
The center recently moved its Falls Church office from the BB&T building in Seven Corners to 6066 Leesburg Pike in the same building housing the temporary quarters of the Woodrow Wilson Library during the library renovation.