County’s ‘Stuff the Bus’ food drive makes virtual return ahead of Thanksgiving

A shuttle for Fairfax County’s Stuff the Bus food drive from 2021 (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County’s annual Stuff the Bus food drive has gone virtual, allowing people to make online donations directly to local nonprofit organizations that provide food assistance in the county.

This is the county’s 12th year partnering with local nonprofits to participate in the campaign, according to a county release. Previously, people could only make physical donations directly inside Fastran buses parked outside grocery stores or libraries.

“While that will still be offered for the Winter 2024 Stuff the Bus campaign, the virtual food drive will help prepare Fairfax County’s nonprofit food access partners for the busy holiday season,” Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) said in the release.

The campaign comes months after the Capital Area Food Bank’s 2023 Hunger Report found that 24% of county residents are food insecure — a statistic referenced in the NCS release.

“Inequitable economic recovery from the pandemic, inflation, and the end of many federal benefit programs make it difficult for families to put food on the table,” the release states.

NCS Equity Program Manager Ramona Carroll said in the release that virtual donations will open up the campaign to people who can’t donate in person.

“In addition to convenience for the donors, it helps the nonprofits receiving the contributions because they can use the funds to purchase fresh and culturally-appropriate foods for the neighborhoods they serve,” Carroll said.

Stuff the Bus was created in 2011 as a “response to a critical need to help restock the shelves of local food pantries after the holidays.” The campaign has collected more than 220 tons of food since it started.

The virtual campaign runs through Nov. 30. An in-person Stuff the Bus campaign will return on Jan. 24 at local grocery stores and other locations throughout the community. The county encourages donations of items that are high fiber, low sugar and low sodium.

The most-requested items include:

  • Cooking oil
  • Corn Flour Maseca
  • Bag (dry) beans, peas or lentils (16 oz.)
  • Rice – brown or white (5 lbs. or smaller)
  • Canned fruit in light syrup or juice (20 oz. or smaller)
  • Healthy hot and cold cereal (42 oz. or smaller)
  • Healthy snacks (e.g. raisins, granola bars)
  • Canned tuna, salmon or chicken (15 oz. or smaller)
  • Canned tomatoes – low sodium, no salt added (29 oz. or smaller)
  • Soup – lower sodium (19 oz. or smaller)
  • Canned pasta (16 oz. or smaller)
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Peanut butter (40 oz. or smaller)
  • Fruit jam (32 oz. or smaller)
  • Instant potatoes (16 oz. or smaller)
  • Pancake mix (32 oz. or smaller) and syrup
  • Canned vegetables – low sodium, no salt added (29 oz. or smaller)
  • Canned beans or peas (29 oz. or smaller)