(Updated at 10:25 a.m. on 5/24/2023) Construction has begun on a new warehouse for the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) in the Newington area.
The organization, which supports nonprofits and provides meals to residents throughout the D.C. region, broke ground on the 43,000-square-foot distribution facility at 6833 Hill Park Drive, Lorton, on May 15.
Expected to more than double CAFB’s capacity in Northern Virginia, the new warehouse replaces a smaller building on the same site that the food bank says “no longer had the size or efficiencies required to address the area’s rising need.”
“Building an expanded facility in Northern Virginia couldn’t come at a more important time: in the wake of the pandemic and sustained rates of inflation, there are still so many in our community who are struggling to make ends meet and to access enough nutritious food,” CAFB President and CEO Radha Muthiah said. “This building is an investment in the future of thousands of Northern Virginians, both today and in the years to come.”
About 24% of Fairfax County residents reported experiencing food insecurity in 2021, putting it on the lower end of a spectrum that ranged from 21% in Arlington County to 48% in Prince George’s County, according to CAFB’s 2022 Hunger Report.
Expected to be released this September, the next hunger report could tell an even more sobering story after a year of inflation and diminishing public assistance. As of February, food prices were 10% higher than that time last year, CAFB said in its annual report, and the end of emergency SNAP benefits placed new pressure on local food banks.
(Correction: This article previously said the next hunger report is expected this summer. While last year’s report came out in June, CAFB says this year’s will likely be published in September, coinciding with Hunger Action Month.)
Capital Area Food Bank distributed nearly three times as many meals in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic as in the preceding year, Fairfax County leaders said last year. In February 2022, the county’s Board of Supervisors approved a $5 million contribution from its federal Covid relief funds to support to the food bank’s warehouse expansion.
CAFB projects that the project will cost a total of $35 million, which it hopes to cover with both public and private funding. So far, seven localities and Virginia have invested over $9 million, and Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Rep. Gerry Connolly, have requested federal Community Project Funding.
“The new 43,000 square-foot facility will be nearly 3.5 times larger than the existing building, allowing the food bank to store and distribute more produce, provide more space for its partner nonprofits to pick up food, and offer volunteering opportunities at its Virginia warehouse for the first time,” CAFB said in a press release.
In addition to hosting a new volunteer center, the warehouse will be larger and more flexible with updated equipment compared to the previous building, which was built in 1982.
The old warehouse’s cooler and storage space had become inadequate, and maintenance was “cost-prohibitive,” CAFB said.
The new building is expected to be completed by late summer 2024.
CAFB isn’t the only local food assistance nonprofit to seek a capacity boost recently. Food for Others opened an addition to its Merrifield warehouse in February that allows clients to shop for groceries.
CAFB distributes more than 50 million meals across the D.C. region annually, according to its website. The organization’s main distribution facility is in northeast D.C.
Mid-spring is evidently the season to get a taste of restaurants around Fairfax County.
For those who didn’t fill up on samplers from this past weekend’s festivals in Vienna and Annandale, Tysons Corner Center will launch its own “Taste of” celebration to promote restaurants at the mall on Saturday (May 6).
Held from 1-4 p.m. on the Plaza, the first annual Taste of Tysons Corner Center will feature samples from over 40 eateries, a beer garden from Barrel & Bushel, cooking demonstrations, and live entertainment.
The full schedule from a media alert:
1-2PM: Tour Tysons Corner Center for a “Taste Of” 40+ participating restaurants.
- Check in at the Tysons Corner tent on The Plaza for your “Passport to Delicious: Eatery Guide”.
- Get your Passport stamped at every sampling table to be entered to win the Grand Prize (Nespresso VertuoPlus machine and $200 Eddie V’s gift card).
- Enjoy the music of Under The Covers Band live on The Plaza stage.
2-3PM: Cooking Demos and Chef Appearances on The Plaza from:
- Barrel & Bushel’s (and Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner’s) Executive Chef Daron Lee
- Seasons 52’s Executive Chef Partner Matt Beverley
- Nordstrom Ebar Manager Kris Kozosky
- Shake Shack: Shake-making with General Manager Sam Posey
- Wasabi: Sushi Rolling 101 with Alex Lee
3-4PM: So Fetch will perform live on The Plaza stage.
There will also be a photo booth and a tent for a “Spin the Wheel” game with restaurant gift cards as the prizes.
While the overall event is free, there’s a VIP lounge with a complimentary oyster bar and tuna tartar from Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, food and alcohol tastings from Seasons 52, and a build-your-own-taco bar from La Sandia.
Tickets to the VIP lounge cost $25, with all proceeds going to the nonprofit Food for Others.
A full list of the participating restaurants can be found on the mall’s website.
Taste of Vienna has reached the decade mark.
The Vienna Volunteer Fire Department’s annual fundraiser will shine a spotlight on local restaurants for a 10th year this Saturday (April 29) from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. — coincidentally the same day as Taste of Annandale’s comeback.
First launched in April 2012, the Town of Vienna festival had a successful return last year after a two-year hiatus during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As one of the earliest of the spring festivals each year, the Taste of Vienna always has a great turn out and 2022 was no exception,” said Taste of Vienna Chair Reagan Clyne with the VVFD. “The weather was perfect and after two years of the pandemic, everyone was eager to be outside and together once again enjoying a beloved local event.”
According to Clyne, the 2022 Taste of Vienna raised nearly $20,000 for the volunteer fire department, which will use the funds to buy a new fire engine and support its general operations, including other events.
Located in the VVFD back parking lot at 400 Center Street South, the 2023 festival has lined up 27 food and non-alcoholic beverage vendors, including five food trucks. Also featured will be a beer and wine tent with Caboose Brewery, Dynasty Brewing Company, Vienna Vinter and Norm’s Beer & Wine.
There will be a bounce house and face painting to keep kids entertained throughout the day, along with family-friendly live music:
- 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. — Five Leaf Clovers
- 12:30-1:45 p.m. — Duck Chuck Goose
- 2-3:15 p.m. — Gunsmoke and Cheap Perfume
- 3:30-4:45 p.m. — (After)Math
- 5-6:15 p.m. — Orbiting Zero
- 6:30-8 p.m. — The Coozies
The overall event is free, but tickets for the alcohol tent and the bounce house will cost $30 and $7, respectively.
Clyne notes that Taste of Vienna is always held regardless of the weather. The fire department hopes that this year’s event will beat last year’s fundraising total.
“We are aiming to exceed that total this year and we have a great lineup that will help us do just that,” Clyne said.
Annandale will close out April by resurrecting its annual celebration of food, diversity and local businesses after four dormant years.
The Taste of Annandale will return next week for the first time since COVID-19 emerged, taking over Tom Davis Drive on Saturday, April 29, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The festival was last held in the fall of 2019, when it drew over 5,000 attendees, according to Annandale Today editor Ellie Ashford, a volunteer member of the Taste of Annandale Planning Committee.
“This will be the first Taste of Annandale since fall 2019,” Ashford said. “After a break due to the pandemic, it’s great to be able to be back with a big event celebrating a diverse, vibrant community.”
First held in 2015, the festival was created by the volunteer nonprofit Annandale-Mason Roundtable, which emerged out of a series of community forums on diversity organized in 2010 and 2011 by Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services with support from the police department.
After getting canceled in 2020 and 2021, Taste of Annandale was set to make its comeback last fall until organizers announced in June that they had decided to postpone the event to this spring because work conflicts limited the participation of key planning committee members.
Organizers are confident that next week’s festivities will be worth the extra wait.
“This year’s event promises to be even bigger and better,” Ashford said.
According to the website, about 14 restaurants and food trucks have signed up for the 2023 Taste of Annandale, though the deadline for vendors and sponsors was today (Thursday). Caboose Brewing Company, which has locations in Vienna and Merrifield, will host a beer garden.
The festival will also feature live music and other entertainment, activities for kids, a best-dressed pet contest, the Taste of Annandale 5K, and a chili cook-off between the Mason Police Department and the Annandale Volunteer Fire Department.
Registration for the 5K is still open. The race will begin at 9:30 a.m. at 4251 John Marr Drive.
Other highlights include raffles with a basket of locally sold items, a restored 1966 Mustang, and a shirt signed by D.C. United manager and former English soccer star Wayne Rooney as prizes. Proceeds from the Rooney shirt raffle, sponsored by the gym RAMP (7232 Columbia Pike), will go to the Annandale Volunteer Fire Department.
The overall festival will benefit local youth art programs, including a George Mason University initiative that encourages high school students to “use art and poetry to promote community engagement,” per the Taste of Annandale website.
The robots are taking over the Mosaic District.
Starting today (Thursday), a fleet of boxy, self-driving bots will roam around the mixed-use Merrifield neighborhood, delivering food from restaurants in a pilot program by the delivery service Uber Eats and the robotics startup Cartken.
Right now, robot deliveries are available from the family-owned Greek restaurant Our Mom Eugenia, Pupatella Pizza and the Indian fast-casual eatery RASA, but other tenants could be added later. The pilot is slated to run through April 2024.
The Mosaic District is emerging as a prime testing ground for autonomous technology, hosting Fairfax County and Dominion Energy’s Relay shuttle — though the vehicle is currently sidelined by “mechanical issues” through Friday (April 21).
“We are excited to partner with Uber Eats and Cartken to bring cutting-edge technology to our community, and confident this innovative service will elevate visitor experience and customer engagement at Mosaic,” said Greg Dercach, vice president of property management for EDENS, which owns and operates the development.
Uber and Cartken — an Oakland, California-based artificial intelligence company created by former Google engineers — first teamed up to experiment with food delivery robots in the Miami, Florida, area, launching a pilot in December.
The companies chose to introduce the robots to the Mosaic District, their first site in Virginia, because of the development’s walkability and abundance of dining options.
“Uber and Cartken share a vision to provide greater affordability, reliability, and convenience to merchants and consumers — all at the touch of a button,” Noah Zych, Uber’s head of autonomous mobility and delivery, said. “Our expansion to Fairfax is another important step in this journey, bringing Virginia residents a little more Uber magic through sidewalk robot delivery.”
Sporting six wheels and a red flag, the robots are equipped with sensors and cameras that help them navigate and avoid collisions. They can carry 1.5 cubic feet — about two full paper grocery bags — and reach speeds of 3-6 mph, depending on the environment.
They will travel anywhere within the Mosaic District, though residents will have to step outside to pick up their deliveries.
While made by a different company, Cartken’s vehicles will look familiar to anyone who has recently visited George Mason University’s Fairfax campus, where robots from Starship Technology have been delivering food to students since 2019.
Founded in 2019, Cartken has also worked with Grubhub at some college campuses and deployed its robots to make Starbucks deliveries at malls in Japan.
“Our team at Cartken is excited to further partner with Uber Eats and expand our reach to serve the Fairfax community,” Cartken co-founder and COO Anjali Jindal Naik said. “Cartken is at an inflection point, where we are rapidly bringing our AI, computer vision, and lidar-less autonomous robots to more places, like Mosaic District, in partnership with Uber Eats.”
Patrons of the participating Mosaic District restaurants can request a delivery by robot through the Uber Eats app, which allows users to track the vehicle’s route and arrival time. A standard delivery takes 20 to 30 minutes, but there’s a “priority” option that advertises a 15 to 25-minute wait for a $1.49 fee.
The new Sisters Thai in Tysons remains a work in progress, but community members will get a taste of what’s to come next month at Perchfest.
Set for May 19-21, the spring edition of Capital One Center’s biannual festival at The Perch (1803 Capital One Drive) will feature food tents for three of the development’s upcoming restaurants, along with live music, lawn games and other activities offered in the past.
In addition to Sisters Thai, which is building its biggest location yet at 7730 Capital One Tower Road, showcases are planned for Stellina Pizzeria (1610 Capital One Drive) and the upscale American restaurant Ox & Rye (7770 Capital One Tower Road).
“Capital One Center is delighted to host the next celebration of Perchfest — our biannual signature event at The Perch, which has become an exceptional rooftop experience for our community and Capital One associates,” Meghan Trossen, Capital One Center’s marketing and community affairs manager, said in a press release.
Trossen said there are no updates yet on actual opening dates for the restaurants. Sisters Thai and Stellina were previously projected to open in the later half of 2022, while Ox & Rye is slated for winter 2023.
The Tex-Mex restaurant Ometeo and a Spanish concept called Santi are also on the way, but they won’t be among the food offerings at next month’s festivities.
Capital One Center, the mixed-use development around the financial giant’s Tysons headquarters, has turned Perchfest into a spring and fall tradition since The Perch opened atop Capital One Hall in 2021. The festival typically draws about 15,000 people over three days, according to Trossen.
Next month’s festivities will include live music by local bands, kid-friendly activities like face-painting and inflatable lawn games, a morning fitness class, and a pop-up box office for Capital One Hall, which will sell fee-free tickets for upcoming performances.
The Watermark Hotel will also have a presence, offering merchandise and prizes as well as “VIP” packages with “special access to festival perks, an upgraded suite overlooking The Perch, welcome amenities and more,” per the press release.
Starr Hill Biergarten and the Perch Putt mini golf course and food trucks will be open throughout the weekend.
Perchfest will run from 4 p.m. to midnight on May 19, 11 a.m. to midnight on May 20, and 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 21. Admission is free, but Capital One Center recommends registering in advance and making a donation to its charity partner, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue.
Fairfax County Public Library’s annual food drive “Read and Feed” is now underway, replacing the “Food for Fines” program.
The county library system is asking residents to drop off “unexpired, commercially produced food items” as well as new, reusable grocery bags and kitchen tools to any of its 23 branches during their regular operating hours.
Last year, “Read and Feed” replaced the “Food for Fines” program after FCPL stopped charging overdue fines on most materials. The program had given library cardholders a reduction on fines based on the number of donated items.
Donations go to the nonprofit Food For Others (FFO), which will then distribute the items across the county. Food For Others provides food to about 3,000 families and meals to 3,500 FCPS students at 44 schools every week, per the county’s press release.
That represents only a small percentage of students in need, though. There are another 13 schools on the waitlist.
There was about a 30% increase in terms of families that FFO helped between 2021 and 2022, FFO’s director of development and outreach Anna Slaten said in a county press release.
It’s anticipated that inflation over the past year will make the need even greater. Relatedly, donations in the summer of 2022 were down 30% from the previous year.
“With inflation, not just our clients are feeling the effects, but our donors are also,” Slaten said.
Additionally, pandemic-era emergency SNAP benefits ended last month, leaving locals looking for even more help.
FFO recently expanded its Merrifield warehouse to address the growing need.
Library branches across the county are accepting pretty much all canned foods, though there are a few items that FFO needs in particular:
- Canned tomato products (crushed, peeled, diced, etc.), 4 oz. – 1 lb.
- Canned meat (chicken, turkey, or seafood), 2 oz. – 15 oz.
- Rice, 16 oz. packages
- Spaghetti sauce, 14 oz. – 1 lb. (ideally in cans instead of glass)
- Canned fruit (packed in fruit juice instead of syrup) 11 oz. – 20 oz.
- Dried or canned beans (black, kidney, pinto, etc.)
- Fruit juice (100% juice) 32 oz. – 64 oz.
- New or clean reusable grocery bags
- Can openers
Items not accepted include food that is not labeled, food that’s cooked, opened items, and canned food that is more than three years past its expiration date.
(Updated at 5:25 p.m. on 4/3/2023) The popular D.C. deli Call Your Mother is expanding into Virginia for the first time.
Known for its bagels, the self-described “Jew-ish” deli is bringing a mobile version of its shop called Lil Deli to the Chesterbrook Shopping Center (6216 Old Dominion Drive) in McLean. The shop was announced today on Instagram.
It will feature a walk-up counter and patio seating, with the deli’s full menu on offer.
“Locals have been asking for a Call Your Mother outpost in VA and the brand has answered!” Call Your Mother co-founder Andrew Dana said by email. “They’re bringing good carbs and good vibes to McLean, with plans to open a second VA location later this year.”
Dana said the second Virginia location will be in Alexandria’s Old Town, though the lease hasn’t been finalized yet. The deli had locked down an Old Town location two years ago, but later appeared to pull out despite signing a lease, according to FFXnow’s sister site ALXnow.
Dana and chef Daniela Moreira started selling food at D.C. farmers markets before launching Call Your Mother as a brick-and-mortar deli in Petsworth in 2018. The business now has seven locations in D.C. and Maryland.
Call Your Mother first went mobile with a “trolley” shop in Bethesda. It’s also planning to venture outside the D.C. area with upcoming locations in Denver, Colorado.
“Call Your Mother is truly focused on two things: carbs and vibes,” Dana said. “When looking at real estate it’s all about how a space feels. Similar to their Bethesda Trolley, the Lil Deli is on wheels which is nice for flexibility and grabbing attention when you drive past. The fun and vibrant energy it brings perfectly matches the Call Your Mother brand.”
An exact opening date for the McLean shop hasn’t been set yet, but it’s anticipated to be “in a few weeks,” Dana said. The store is now hiring workers, per a LinkedIn job posting.
It will be one of several relative newcomers to Chesterbrook, which is undergoing a renovation. The juice bar South Block opened earlier in March, and the clothing store J. McLaughlin is on track to open this summer, property manager Federal Realty previously told FFXnow.
In its quest to minimize waste, the vertical farm housed in a shed behind Merrifield’s Luther Jackson Middle School will one day be sustained by fish feces.
Barely the length of a fingernail, the larval tilapia swimming around a small tank in the shed will soon grow large enough to be transferred into a bigger bucket with a filter that separates fish poop and other solids from water.
“The water goes back in the tank, of course, and then, the solids will go down through the filter system, and they will separate from the water and…be turned into sludge we use as fertilizer,” explained Vivian Nguyen, an eighth-grade student at Luther Jackson.
Thanks to Vivian and about 14 other students across four engineering classes, the farm is now operating and producing 50 bags of lettuce or spinach a month, all destined for the school’s food pantry.
It took two years of research, experimentation and waiting for equipment and permit approvals to get the farm to this stage — long enough that the eighth-grader who first conceived of the project has moved on to high school.
Driven by a desire to build a farm on Mars, the student began researching hydroponics — techniques for growing plants without soil — and other means of making food with limited resources for his Center for Equity in Science, Technology, Engineering, English and Math (ESTEEM) project, according to center director and technology education teacher Mark Smith.
The ESTEEM Center raises funds for STEM resources at the six elementary schools that feed into Luther Jackson. With many students in the Falls Church High School pyramid eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, the center is intended to support kids who otherwise might not have access to specialized STEM programs.
Other projects produced by the center include a solar measuring station installed in front of Luther Jackson.
“When you come to middle school and you join drama, you become part of that tribe, or music, that’s a tribe, but we’re trying to create that for STEM, and then we keep them together,” Smith said. “They go on to get advanced degrees and then they help save the world. That’s the whole mission.”
The students who designed, constructed and now maintain the vertical farm, also known as an aquaponics lab, likely aren’t thinking about saving the world just yet.
Vivian, for instance, joined the project at the behest of a friend who shares her interest in fish. She also wanted to get experience working with a team.
Vivienne Bao, a fellow eighth-grader who got involved earlier this semester, says she enjoys the hands-on experience, even if that means taking care of mundane tasks like cleaning up water leaks or picking beads from the filter system out of fish sludge.
“Everything is connected and one misstep can lead to major problems,” she said. “So, everybody needs to work together to solve it, and then we can be successful and grow vegetables.” Read More
The Springfield United Methodist Church will open its doors at 7047 Old Keene Mill Road tomorrow (Friday) to anyone in need of a warm, free meal for St. Patrick’s Day.
While hosted by that church, the St. Patrick’s Day Supper and Community Conversation is being organized by the Provision Church, a new United Methodist Church dedicated to addressing food insecurity in southeastern Fairfax County.
Launched on Jan. 1, Provision Church aims to help people in need not just by handing out meals, but by encouraging entrepreneurship and teaching culinary skills through a planned job training program, its leader, the Rev. Alyssa Densham, told FFXnow.
“We go further up the river than offering someone just a free meal or a free bag of food,” Densham said. “We speak into the right that all people have for self-determination and hope to level the playing field so that all people have access to the resources and support to become the people they dream of becoming.”
A trained chef who graduated from the Culinary Institute of American in 2010, Densham worked at a food bank, the nonprofit National Farm to School Network, and faith-based charity programs before becoming associate pastor of food justice and access at Rising Hope Mission Church in Mount Vernon.
Provision Church grew out of conversations she had while working in communities along the Route 1 corridor, where she met people who aspired to have their own food-related businesses but struggle with a lack of financial or emotional support, health care access, literacy, and other barriers.
“I spoke to one woman who is a phenomenal cook, but because of [a] poorly supported learning challenge, she is functionally illiterate and can’t read recipes to work in the restaurants that she wants to work in,” she said. “Through these conversations, I heard communities cry out for programs that saw them as whole people with real dreams living real lives.”
Fairfax County residents with the greatest challenges accessing food are concentrated along the Route 1 or Richmond Highway corridor, according to the county’s 2022 Food Security Index, though there are also pockets of high need in Annandale, Seven Corners and the Herndon area.
A county economic needs assessment found that food costs in the region rose 8.4% from May 2021 to May 2022 and 25.6% over the past decade, straining households likely also struggling with other expenses.
Overall, about 24% of county residents are food-insecure, 8% of them severely, the Capital Area Food Bank’s 2022 Hunger Report found. Read More