In Northern Virginia this summer, two local nonprofit organizations, Food Justice DMV and Nurturing Families, are doing their part in helping support school staff and immigrant families.
Denise Woods is the founding director of Food Justice DMV and said she founded the organization after accompanying people to their ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) check-ins.
Two people she had been accompanying spoke about how they were running out of food for themselves and their families due to spending money on travel to the check-ins out of fear of deportation. Woods said this was when she and her team decided to turn their hotline into a food distribution organization for over 200 families.
In a “massive act of solidarity,” the organization was shared among radio stations and Facebook and Woods said within days the number of asylum seekers grew. Currently, the organization supports 7,000 families who are asylum seekers in the region.
Food Justice DMV is trying to accomplish “many things,” Woods claims, by reducing food insecurity and supporting people who have no other access to governmental resources being the main goal of the organization. Many of the families supported by the organization are undocumented and have fled their countries to save their children and themselves.
Woods said she believes that Food Justice DMV is the “only organization that actually supports this multi-jurisdictional organization dedicated solely or primarily to people who are undocumented.”
Woods said the organization is met with a “sea of gratitude” by the people who benefit from it, with many members fearing “when the next plate of food will come for their children.” Some of the challenges Food Justice DMV has faced is almost running out of money “eight times” and having to cut back on the “most basic foods,” such as tortillas, for people of Latin descent, due to inflation. With 250 volunteers, Woods said “every penny goes to the families,” with $991,000 having been raised in the past two years.
“We get overwhelming gratitude and love for what we’re doing,” Woods said. “It’s incredible to experience and it’s an honor to be in the struggle with them.”
Nurturing Families is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that has seasonal programs including “back to school” support, winter coat distribution and a holiday boutique. Currently, the organization is raising funds to buy supplies for students at Woodson Elementary school nearby Falls Church, which also includes a Facebook page that ensures teachers and staff have the supplies they need when school is back in session.
Sherry Noud is the executive director and founder of Nurturing Families and started the organization after becoming aware of the need for a program to assist with distributing free, new car seats. “As a mother herself,” Noud felt she needed to create a local organization that was “willing to be a liaison between the health department and families.”
The mission of Nurturing Families is to support low-income families so that they can nurture their children to “reach their fullest potential” and “keep them safe from harm.”
At the time when the organization was distributing car seats, they were able to provide car seats to over 1,000 children in the community, along with teaching the parents how to properly use them. During the pandemic, Noud said the organization was able to collect thousands of diapers and books for a baby’s needs and book drive during the pandemic.
For the next three to five years, Noud said the organization’s goal is to “increase the services” Nurturing Families has to offer. In order to do that, the program would need to identify funding sources that would allow them to “sustain support to communities.”