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Virginia

Statewide Food Drive

Help restock food banks where your hungry neighbors go to get free groceries

Sally Anna Stapleton, volunteers in Christiansburg Virginia

Sally Anna Stapleton, of Radford, coordinates 30 of the 500 AARP volunteers who will collect food to stock food banks Sept. 9 to 15. The number of Virginians needing food has jumped 54 percent since 2006. — Photo by Jared Soares

Lisa Heidemann can see it by the increase in the number of churches and service groups that pick up food from the Capital Area Food Bank in Lorton where she volunteers.

She said the AARP Virginia food drive comes after the summer season when donations slow to a trickle, leaving food bank shelves bare.

"That there are still people who can't afford to put a meal on the table bothers me," said Heidemann, 55, of Woodbridge.

Service groups can organize collections outside markets and ask shoppers to buy an extra jar of peanut butter, can of tuna or bag of dried beans.

"Small groups of people can collect 1,000 pounds using this method," said Brian Jacks, AARP Virginia associate state director for community outreach. "The food banks come pick it up with their trucks, and it's a win-win."

One person, big results

Wahed Hossaini, 75, of Springfield, illustrates how one person's effort can yield big results.

When he started a food donation drive in his neighborhood three years ago, he was initially not very successful.

Hossaini, who grew up in Bangladesh, then turned to the Bangladeshi community in the Washington area, and money and food poured in. Last year he collected $1,200 and 17 bags of food for a Springfield pantry.

Hossaini started his effort after an AARP Virginia training dinner for the Create the Good program. He listened that night as a speaker — during grace — talked about appreciating the meal while knowing that others were hungry.

"I realized how lucky I am, so why not help however I can?" said the retired software engineer.

"If we all do it in a small way, it will be a big thing."

To volunteer or to set up a collection drive, call 1-866-542-8164 toll-free. To find drop-off locations near you, visit the Create the Good website and enter your ZIP code.

Tamara Lytle is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C., area.

Also of interest: People not getting enough to eat.

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