Jennifer – Food is a Basic Human Right
I was born and raised in Loudoun County and my parents taught me to treat everyone with respect. At 16, I volunteered to work at a camp for children with cancer, where I discovered my passion for helping people. After working for the town, the county, and the private sector, I finally followed my heart into nonprofit leadership.
In 2014, I was named the Executive Director of Loudoun Hunger Relief. At first, my goal was to just get the lay of the land. That quickly changed: Now, I want to make sure that everyone in need has access to nutritious food. Food is just such a basic human right. Most of us take the next meal for granted, but some of our neighbors are not so lucky.
Transportation is an issue in Loudoun, and getting to our Leesburg pantry can be a challenge for some. So, we go to them. We have started setting up pop-up markets in Leesburg and Sterling as well as satellite pantries throughout the county. And, we just completed fundraising for a mobile pantry.
We are committed to making the experience of getting food from the pantry as easy and dignified as possible. We are open six days a week, including evenings to accommodate work schedules, and we give out snacks to children in the lobby to make things a little easier for parents. In our recently reorganized space, visitors can select fresh produce, bakery items, and groceries they need and will use—instead of being handed a generic bag. We work with local farmers to take in fresh, local produce. And, we even compost the pantry’s waste to reduce our impact on the environment.
With all these innovations, we have grown from distributing 1.2 million pounds of food a year to 1.4 million pounds, 300,000 pounds of which is fresh produce. Our 300 volunteers serve 40 to 70 families every day. But, we still have more to do. Currently, there are approximately 14,000 people in Loudoun who are food insecure; that’s about 3.4% of our population. We expect those numbers to continue to grow. As the population in Loudoun continues to boom, we have built new schools and new roads. But we have not expanded our human services sufficiently. We are playing catch up. With the help of our supporters and volunteers, including our Board of Directors, we work hard every day to keep pace with the need.
Loudoun is a great place to live for most of us. Our nonprofits, businesses, and government officials are working together to make it a better place to live for everyone. Won’t you join us and help End the Need?