Child hunger has no single solution, so community leaders, churches, and non profit organizations meet in a consortium to devise multiple outreaches and solutions to the ongoing problem.
“When you look at the big picture of childhood hunger in Alexandria, you almost don’t want to tackle it,” said Melanie Gray, director of Outreach and Mission at Historic Christ Church in Alexandria. “So we take it one piece at a time.”
Gray convened Hunger Free Alexandria, a network of 30 local groups and advocates who meet once a month to develop strategies. The group started in 2014 as a result of a report about food access problems for the Alexandria Childhood Obesity Action Network.
“The report was a springboard to action,” Gray said. When people become aware of the problem and are asked to help-, she says they are willing.
“No matter how much we communicate there is so much more to be done,” said Deborah Warren, the director of the Center for Children and Families in the Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services. “And whose job is it? There is no single hunger czar in Alexandria whose job is to address childhood hunger in the city.”
Currently the solution to the problem of childhood hunger is addressed by a patchwork of funding, programs, and efforts that are often overlapping. However, Warren points out that progress has been made since 2014.
“A few years ago we weren’t even aware hunger existed in Alexandria,” Warren said. She cited the city’s first Children and Youth Master Plan, which was adopted by the City Council in June 2014 and by the ACPS School Board in May 2014. “It’s a big deal. The plan doesn’t call out hunger but coordinates efforts across agencies to develop a systems approach for solving problems for youth.”