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Arlington Co. Elementary Packs Weekend Meals For Homeless Students

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For Arlington students with families facing homelessness, school is the best place to get a nutritious meal.
Jonathan Wilson
For Arlington students with families facing homelessness, school is the best place to get a nutritious meal.

Even the best school cafeteria food rarely compares to a good home-cooked meal. But things are different if you don't have a home.

That's why Arlington Food Assistance Center -- a food pantry that provides groceries to the needy in the county -- has started delivering extra food to Drew Model Elementary each Friday morning. That way, children of families living in homeless shelters or transitional housing don't have to be hungry over the weekends.

The food is packed into a backpack that the students can bring with them, and return to the school on Mondays.

Cheryl Relford, the school's principal, says she's seen positive results from the weekend food program.

"I know it's having a direct impact on our families in making sure they have what they need in order to get by," Relford says.

School social worker Susan Miller, who initiated the program, says it was the voice of student whose family had recently been evicted that caught her attention.

"This fourth grader came to me and said that she was hungry on the weekend. That's disturbing," Miller says.

Six families at Drew Model Elementary are getting the extra food, but there are more than 250 homeless students across the school district.

AFAC executive director Charles Meng says the group has the resources to expand the program and he is discussing expansion with other Arlington County Public Schools principals.

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