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Free meals truck seeks to stay long-term at Lewinsville Senior Center in McLean

SevaTruck provides free meals at the Annandale Community Center in March 2023 (courtesy Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services)

A nonprofit that has been serving free meals made at Lewinsville Senior Center throughout the COVID-19 pandemic hopes to establish a permanent presence at the McLean facility.

Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS), which operates the senior center at 1613 Great Falls Street, applied in late 2022 for a special exception amendment that would let SevaTruck Foundation keep using the center’s kitchen to cook, store and package food.

NCS is now seeking public input on its partnership with SevaTruck. It will host four information sessions on the application, starting with a virtual meeting on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“SevaTruck serves a crucial role in addressing hunger and food insecurity and has a deep understanding of the communities it serves,” NCS said in a press release announcing the meetings.

SevaTruck provides “free, fresh, nutritious warm meals to children attending Title 1 Schools and…living in historically low-income, marginalized communities across Fairfax County and the Washington DC, metropolitan area,” according to a statement of justification for the application.

Areas served so far include McLean, Tysons, Reston, Herndon, Fairfax, Annandale, Falls Church and Alexandria. The nonprofit also has chapters in Richmond, Michigan and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The D.C. area chapter began operating out of Lewinsville Senior Center early in the pandemic after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors declared a local emergency, which suspended zoning requirements that would “preclude a temporary modification to an activity, use, or structure where the Zoning Administrator determines the modification is needed to respond to the COVID-19 emergency and its impacts.”

However, the county’s official state of emergency for Covid ended on March 1, giving SevaTruck and other organizations or businesses operating under an emergency waiver 12 months to obtain the approvals and permits necessary to continue.

In the application, NCS regional manager Karen De Mijango says two SevaTruck employees work out of the senior center Monday through Friday, preparing 1,800 meals a week that are delivered to around 1,400 Fairfax County residents both on-site and off by an 18-foot-long food truck.

“Meals are either picked-up from the senior center by partners, delivered in either a personal car, or in the food-truck,” De Mijango wrote in the statement to the county’s zoning division. “Partners picking up from the center does not cause disruptions to the senior programs. SevaTruck uses the backdoor of the kitchen to load/unload with a cart-roller.”

She noted that SevaTruck is seeking to expand by boosting its base of volunteers to assist with off-site food distributions, but no increase in staff is planned.

The application is currently scheduled to go to the Fairfax County Planning Commission for a public hearing on Jan. 24, 2024. Two more virtual information sessions will be held on Dec. 12 and Jan. 11, and an in-person meeting is planned at the senior center on Jan. 9.

A hearing before the Board of Supervisors, which is responsible for approving the application, hasn’t been scheduled yet.