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Nonprofit that serves free meals gets support for continuing McLean operations

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

A food truck that delivers free meals throughout Fairfax County has encountered nothing but support in its bid to stay long-term at the Lewinsville Center in McLean, county staff recently told the Fairfax County Planning Commission.

The commission gave SevaTruck Foundation another endorsement by recommending after a public hearing on Jan. 24 that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approve a special exception amendment so the nonprofit can continue to operate out of the center, which includes a senior center, adult day care and two child care programs.

“It’s an important program,” Dranesville District Planning Commissioner John Ulfelder said. “People think of McLean, they say, ‘Well, people of McLean don’t need this kind of help.’ The fact is there are people in McLean who need it, as well as other areas that can be served by this…It’s an important service that the county provides to help people that really need it.”

The Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) contracted SevaTruck to make meals for low-income and other vulnerable residents in 2021, according to county planner Zach Fountain. The county board had suspended zoning code provisions preventing temporary uses that could be helpful for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, SevaTruck’s presence in Fairfax County dates back to its arrival in the D.C. area in 2017, when it began providing meals to Title I schools and low-income neighborhoods. With the NCS contract, it got access to the Lewinsville Center’s commercial-sized kitchen, enabling it to expand its capacity and reach, NCS North County Region 3 Assistant Division Director Karen De Mijango said.

Since launching, the nonprofit has served over 380,000 meals in the D.C. area, including more than 85,000 meals in Fairfax County in 2023, according to De Mijango. In addition to providing food at the Lewinsville Center (1613 Great Falls Street), the employee-run food truck and volunteers have visited communities from Herndon to the Route 1 corridor.

There are no plans to further expand the program, but with the county’s emergency status for the pandemic now expired, the nonprofit needs a special exception to keep using the Lewinsville Center’s kitchen, a dining room and a designated parking spot.

SevaTruck operates from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with two workers and up to two volunteers preparing meals in the kitchen each day.

“I think what we’ve established the last few years with SevaTruck Foundation, it has worked well for us and the senior program and other campus partners,” De Mijango said. “We would like to ensure this resource continues to benefit Fairfax County residents, especially the Title I schools in low-income communities and neighborhoods.”

De Mijango noted that NCS has conducted thorough community outreach on the application, including four public information sessions, postcards mailed to all residents living within a mile of the center and meetings with community groups like the McLean Citizens Association.

The county hasn’t gotten any complaints about SevaTruck since it started using the center, and none were raised during the community meetings, she confirmed when asked by Ulfelder.

Jakelin Lake, an office assistant for Braddock Elementary School in Annandale, attested to SevaTruck’s importance to a Title I school where about 67% of students are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches, as of the 2022-2023 school year.

Since partnering with Braddock Elementary seven years ago, the nonprofit has served over 150,000 meals to students, including the approximately 250 to 300 children who attend its after-school programs.

“Without the meals they give to us every Monday and Wednesday, we wouldn’t be successful,” Lake said. “Our scores have gone up, because the kids are able to study and learn and not worry about the food they do not have at home.”

Reopened in 2019 after a redevelopment, the Lewinsville Center contains the Lewinsville Senior Center, Westgate Child Center, Lewinsville Montessori School, and Lewinsville Adult Day Health Care. The property also features an athletic field and is adjacent to the Fallstead Apartments, an 82-unit independent living community for seniors.

Ulfelder remarked that “both the residences and the center have been highly successful” since they opened, and Franconia District Commissioner Dan Lagana praised the facility as an example of how the county can coordinate service to support different groups in one location.

“Hopefully, this sets an example and we can see more of that, especially partnerships with nonprofits,” Lagana said.

The application from NCS is now scheduled to go to the Board of Supervisors for a public hearing on March 5.

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