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Nonprofit’s use of McLean senior center to make and distribute free meals approved

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

SevaTruck Foundation has been granted permanent use of the Lewinsville Center’s kitchen for its food distribution operations.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a special exception on March 5 that will let the nonprofit continue making and providing free meals out of the senior center in McLean, which also houses adult day care and child care programs.

With the approval, SevaTruck can continue utilizing the kitchen and a designated parking spot on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It typically has two employees and up to two volunteers preparing meals that are then distributed both on-site and at other locations via a food truck and volunteers’ personal vehicles.

“This has been a great partnership, a great thing for the community, and this is a very easy one [to approve],” Dranesville District Supervisor Jimmy Bierman said before the board’s vote. “This is good stuff.”

The special exception was requested by Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS), which operates the Lewinsville Center and offered SevaTruck use of the commercial-sized kitchen in 2021 so it could make meals for low-income residents and others in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county had suspended some zoning requirements to allow temporary uses, such as medical facilities, deemed necessary “to respond to the COVID-19 emergency and its impacts.” However, the local state of emergency for the pandemic ended on March 1, 2022, so operations established during that time now need official approval to continue long-term.

SevaTruck began operating in Fairfax County in 2017, serving over 380,000 meals to date. Getting access to the Lewinsville Center’s kitchen has enabled the nonprofit to “increase its capacity,” NCS North County Region 3 Assistant Division Director Karen De Mijango told the board.

Echoing the sentiments of a coworker who spoke at the Fairfax County Planning Commission’s public hearing on Jan. 24, Braddock Elementary School teacher Joyce Matthews testified that SevaTruck’s assistance has been critical to the school.

Before the pandemic, the nonprofit gave free meals to students who participated in after-school programs, and once COVID-19 shut down in-person classes in March 2020, it provided meals twice a week.

“We could not do the things that we do without SevaTruck,” Matthews said. “…We want to let you know how much of a difference they’ve made, and definitely with the kitchen, it has been much easier. They have become part of our Braddock community.”

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw confirmed that SevaTruck has done “an amazing job” at Braddock Elementary School and other sites around the county, recalling his experience volunteering to help distribute food out of the back of the truck.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik called the collaboration between NCS and SevaTruck a “creative use” of a public facility, while Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay noted that the nonprofit’s community service was recognized with a “Best of Braddock” award in 2022.

“I remember that night well, and they’re doing amazing work that’s really benefitting the entire county, especially our Title I schools,” McKay said.

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