The Annandale Neighborhood Food Program needs more volunteers to help distribute food to the needy. The food program is open every Thursday evening at the Immanuel United Methodist Church, 7900 Heritage Drive, Annandale, near the H Mart. The program is not a church program, however; it is open to everyone in the community who needs a bag of groceries to help their family get through the week.
About 40 to 50 people usually show up, and even on the evening of the big thunderstorm last week, 45 people came by to pick up food for their families. “We’re getting more clients than we can serve,” says organizer Ann Woodle. No one has to prove they need assistance. “It operates strictly on a walk-in basis,” she says. “People wouldn’t come and stand in line in this heat if they really didn’t need to.”
Having a source of free food is especially important in the summer, when children no longer have access to free school lunches and breakfasts. When school lets out for the year, “it’s a real hardship for these families,” Woodle says.
Anyone who’s interested in volunteering is invited to drop in at the church by 5 or 5:15 p.m. on Thursdays to help unpack and distribute food, she says. You don’t need to call ahead of time to sign up. In addition to volunteers, the program needs donations of non-perishable food, such as canned items, pasta, beans, and cereal.
The Annandale Neighborhood Food Program receives perishable items (fruit and vegetables and sometimes other items, like milk, juice, and bread) from the Food for Others network warehouse on 2938 Prosperity Ave. Food for Others is the largest distribution center for free food for the needy in Northern Virginia.
Several local groups also help. The Canterbury Woods Civic Association in Annandale collected canned food for the center during its National Night Out community gathering Aug. 3. The Wahoo Swim Team from the Wakefield Chapel Recreation Association collected donations for the program during its swim practice sessions.
Until about a year ago, the Annandale Neighborhood Food Program was operated by staff from The Alternative House, a program for troubled teens, and was based at the Annandale Neighborhood Center, which was located in a portable building on the Annandale High School campus. But the program lost its home when the high school decided its facilities should be restricted to student uses, and the Annandale Neighborhood Center closed. Fortunately, Immanuel United stepped in and agreed to provide space. Woodle is grateful the Rev. Deborah Austin and church member Betsy Clevenger for their support of the food program.