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This Virginia nonprofit is fighting food insecurity in schools one red bag at a time

WUSA9 is shining a light on organizations making a difference in our community, including Food for Neighbors.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Food insecurity among students is a big concern in schools and it impacts kids in our community. The organization Food for Neighbors is helping fill the need by supporting students who struggle with hunger.

Karen Joseph started Food for Neighbors nearly five years ago after seeing the impact first-hand.

"Currently we have about one in three students in Fairfax County Schools that are eligible for the free and reduced meal program. That’s a lot of kids that need this extra support. If we want to really help this next generation as they come up, let’s start with some basics. Let’s get some food, let’s give them a chance at success," said Joseph.

The organization started by serving 100 kids a week at two schools. Now, they support more than 1,400 students at 24 different middle and high schools across Fairfax and Loudoun Counties.

"The pandemic definitely pushed us over the edge in terms of the amount of the amount of schools that came to us and said we need your support and your help," Joseph said.

Through their Red Bag Events, volunteers from the local community work together to collect and distribute food every week.

 The program began in Herndon, VA, and has since expanded into the Springfield, Falls Church and Fort Hunt areas of Fairfax County, as well as neighboring schools in Loudoun County. 

"We give them directly to the schools so when they are ready, on Monday morning to start distributing them out to their students for the week.

The next Red Bag Event is on November 6th. 

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"Five times a year, you can fill a Red Bag that we supply with food from our grocery list. Drivers pick up the filled bag right from your front door and volunteers sort the food to distribute to local schools the same day. Students in your local community will immediately benefit from your generosity," the organization shared on their website.

Organizers ask you leave your bag by your front door before 8:30 am. If you are able to leave an extra bag this month, the additional help will go to support students while they are on winter break.

During the pandemic, organizers also launched a Virtual Red Bag where you can "fill" a Virtual Red Bag with enough food for eight students for one weekend.  

"We have kids locally who need this extra support and as soon as you let other parents, adults and families know, they are ready to jump in and help," said Joseph.

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