Food for Others was founded in 1995 with a mission to distribute food to our neighbors in need by mobilizing our giving community and volunteers. We began as a continuation of Lazarus at the Gate, an earlier emergency food services program founded by Dr. George McManmon to prevent individuals in Northern Virginia from going hungry.
When Lazarus at the Gate ceased operations in June of 1995, the Department of Community Action, Fairfax County, and previous Lazarus volunteers worked together to establish Food for Others, a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that would provide food to local families in need. Food for Others was incorporated on October 20, 1995 and operations officially commenced six weeks later.
At our start in 1995, we had a small paid staff of four and were operated almost entirely by volunteers and our Board of Directors, chaired by Ed Demoney. Food for Others began feeding local families in need through three major programs:
(1) distributing food directly from our Merrifield warehouse,
(2) serving as a food bank for our community partners, and
(3) providing food at our neighborhood sites throughout Fairfax County.
In 2011, Food for Others added our fourth food distribution program, the Power Pack Program (P3), which provides weekend backpack food to students at Fairfax County elementary schools during the school year.
In February of 2004, Roxanne Rice was hired as Food for Others’ first Executive Director. During her 12 years at Food for Others, she expanded FFO’s programs to better provide for all of the hungry families in our community. Roxanne is succeeded by our current executive director, Annie Turner, a longtime FFO volunteer and board member, who took the helm in July of 2016.
Food for Others added the “choice” section to our Warehouse in July of 2016, which allows our clients to shop for their food instead of receiving a box of pre-selected food. In 2020, Food for Others upgraded this area to an enclosed, grocery-store setting called “My Market @ FFO.“ The new market is complete with heating and air conditioning, fully stocked shelves, and an activity to keep kids busy while their parents shop.
Food for Others joined forces with Burke Pediatrics, several county offices and the Capital Area Food Bank in early 2017 to start our Rx for Food program. Through the Rx for Food program, doctors screen their patients for food insecurity and refer them to Food for Others with a prescription for food.
A central component of Food for Others’ mission has always been to reduce food waste. We obtain most of our food through food rescue operations. Staff and volunteers pick up good food that would be thrown away from local grocery stores and collect fresh produce from farms, community gardens and farmers’ markets. The warehouse also receives food from individual donors, community food drives, the Capital Area Food Bank and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In 2017, Food for Others added a Farm to Family program which works to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to hungry families, reduce the amount of food wasted in Northern Virginia, and support local farmers through the Virginia Food Crop Donation Tax Credit. Three AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers helped establish the program at FFO. The Farm to Family program includes weekly farm food recoveries, cooking classes for low-income families, farmers market gleanings, and our community gardens where families are empowered to grow their own fresh produce.
In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Food for Others expanded our programs with CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funding. We added six new CARES Community Partners and began operating eight new mobile food pantry sites.
Over the past 25 years, Food for Others has established itself as an essential part of Northern Virginia’s safety net for those needing food when emergency strikes, and for the growing number of working poor who are unable to make ends meet and need to supplement their inadequate food supplies. In our first year of operation, we served about 105 families per month. 25 years later, Food for Others provides food for more than 3,000 families each week.