A Tale of Two Counties

$114,105 is the amount that a family of four needs to earn to live comfortably in Fairfax County according to the Economic Policy Institute.

$33,745 is the maximum amount a family of four can earn in Virginia and still qualify for SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits.

Do you see the gap there?

In one Fairfax County, people have high paying jobs and access to world class shopping, arts, education and cultural opportunities. In the other Fairfax County, people who have moved here recently, or are young, elderly or disabled struggle for housing and food in what has become a very expensive place to live.

In one Fairfax County, young professionals shop at the new 70,000 square foot Whole Foods at The Boro in Tysons. In the other, 19 percent of residents live more than a mile from a supermarket or large grocery store, the very definition of a food desert.

The food insecurity rate is 4.9 percent. That means that 56,530 people face limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or they are unable to access foods in socially acceptable ways.

Food insecurity doesn’t occur in isolation. Individuals and families make trade-offs, choosing between paying for food or other necessities like rent, utilities and medicine. Food insecurity can be occasional or chronic depending on the situation. Food for Others steps in with emergency foods when families need temporary help due to illness, job loss, divorce or other crises.  For families with longer term struggles, Food for Others provides monthly USDA commodities.

In one Fairfax County, kids spend their weekends shuttling between sporting events that their parents paid a lot of money for them to play.  In the other Fairfax County, kids are coming to school hungry, listless and tired on Monday mornings because they didn’t get enough to eat over the weekend. For those kids, Food for Others steps in with weekend backpack meals.

It’s easy to speak with pride about the great place where we live.  It is the 2nd richest county in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report. But this holiday season, let’s not forget our neighbors who live in the other Fairfax County.

Alison Padget is Food for Others’ Director of Development & Outreach.