Accotink Unitarian Universalist Church (AUUC) recently received the 2019 Congregational Social Justice Program Award from Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice (UUSJ) for its efforts to stop hunger in Fairfax County, VA. Using seed money that No Child Goes Hungry (NCGH) granted in 2016, AUUC has made a significant impact on its community.
The Realities of Hunger
Although Northern Virginia is one of the wealthiest areas in the country, in Fairfax County, five percent of the population experience food insecurity. This data means, based on U.S. Census figures, that more than 90,000 people are living in poverty in Fairfax County, 30 percent of which are children.
AUUC Hunger Relief Efforts
To address the issue of hunger in the community, AUUC partnered with its neighboring Halley Elementary School to provide about 20 children with Weekend Meal Packs (WMP). Like many students in Fairfax County Public Schools today, the children receive free or reduced lunch during the week, but still face challenges of hunger and food insecurity at home. AUUC’s WMPs contain nutritious, non-perishable foods, and include items for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. School counselors distribute the packs to students on Fridays.
To provide WMPs throughout the entire school year, AUUC implements assembly events several times during the year. The program has been successful due to the enthusiastic participation by the AUUC community—adults, children, and youth. The program is sponsored by AUUC’s Social Justice Committee and Children’s Spiritual Development Committee.
Helping to End Hunger—One Meal at a Time
In selecting AUUC for a 2019 Congressional Social Justice Award, the review committee identified several noteworthy powerful practices that AUUC employs:
- The level and diversity of congregational support. Children do the packing while adults and older youth set up tables and oversee the assembly, and the entire congregation either donates money or specific food items to support the program.
- Not only is 2019 AUUC’s third continuous year executing its WMP program, but it is also expanding its efforts. AUUC added summer book collections late last year, increased WMP support from 20 to 35 children per week, and started a mentoring program with Haley Elementary School, for which 13 children are so far enrolled.
AUUC is a spiritual home to people of all ages, races, political persuasions and interests. It has a lively group of young families dedicated to helping one another grow religiously while finding community and support with one another. It maintains long-time members who share their rich life experiences and their knowledge of their faith. Together AUUC members worship, break bread, serve their community and have fun.
Membership includes doctors, lawyers, teachers and nurses; mothers, fathers, young adults and grandparents; active military families, defense contractors, musicians and construction workers. They are gay, straight, single and partnered. But mostly, it is a group of honest folk striving to make meaning in this busy world while composing lives of service and depth.
Congratulations AAUC, we are so inspired by you!