When we started planting Little Free Food Pantries in early 2021, we never could have imagined there would be 25 in the DMV just 18 months later. Today, 14 of those 25 boxes are located in Fairfax County, Va.
Unfortunately, the need for emergency food is still great across the region — in part due to the record-high cost of groceries. Anecdotally, our generous volunteers who visit the Little Free Food Pantries every weekend continue to report that nearly every box is empty when they arrive.
As we looked for opportunities to expand the Little Free Food Pantry network, we sought the counsel of Supervisor Rodney Lusk and his staff. Supervisor Lusk is one of 10 elected officials who oversee the local budget, taxes, policies, and property use in Fairfax County.
Supervisor Lusk is also a tenacious advocate for the region with a deep knowledge of rising food needs. At the height of the pandemic, he and his staff developed the largest and longest running food distribution in Fairfax County history. He has seen and understands the challenges firsthand.
After months of discussions with county staff and area leaders, Supervisor Lusk recommended that Be The Good request an official “zoning interpretation” to help meet our goal to hopefully encourage expansion of the network of Little Free Food Pantries in Fairfax County.
This officially put the Little Free Food Pantries — as well as our systems to install and maintain the little boxes — through a rigorous review, including with Fairfax County’s Health Department.
In early September 2022, we received the official determination from this request.
According to the Fairfax County Zoning Administration, “Providing access to nonperishable food is in the public interest. As such, a little free food pantry may be permitted” subject to the rigorous standards that Be The Good has established and our volunteers continue to maintain. These standards include checking expiration dates on the non-perishable foods and ensuring the boxes remain structurally sound.
We are hopeful that this zoning interpretation will ease the hurdles of getting approvals to plant new pantries around the region. And we are grateful to Supervisor Lusk and his staff for helping us look for ways to further our mission to feed our neighbors.