PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. (ABC7) — Hundreds of families show up to the St. Thomas food pantry in Manassas on Saturdays as part of the Prince William Food Rescue program.
The program started about a year and a half ago but has picked up steam because of the pandemic.
"With the pandemic, we've had to shift because of the increase of demand, so now we're supporting 78 food distribution sites every week and we've got volunteers in the community using our app to pick up food and drop it off at our food distribution sites," said program director Aaron Tolson.
Tolson says it's called a rescue program because the volunteers rescue the food from being thrown away.
"It could be a dent in a can. It could be stuff that the grocery store pulled, just because it doesn't look pretty enough to sell, but it's perfectly good food," said Tolson. "We're moving anywhere between a million and a million and a half pounds of food every month out in the community."
He says about 700 active volunteers use the app to find partner stores.
They then pick up the food and drop it off at area food pantries.
“Since we've launched, we've distributed well over 11 million pounds of food into our community,” said Tolson.
Another element of the program deals with non-profits.
For Nancy Lyall and the Woodbridge Workers Committee, that means visiting El Paso Mexican restaurant in Woodbridge to pick up fresh meals.
For the past 11 months, the restaurant has been preparing 30 meals three days a week for distribution.
"We've been here at this location for over 20 years, so we just felt like we should give back to the community. They've supported us all these years. We're blessed," said manger Ritchie Gomez.
ABC7 was there as Lyall made her Saturday pickup.
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"The folks we work with can't go and drive to a church for the most part, so we bring the food to them," said Lyall.
She says this has been a vital lifeline for a lot of the people her non-profit is able to reach.
“They can use that money that they would have used on food to go towards their rent, so it helps to keep people from losing their homes,” said Lyall.
Currently, the program operates across Prince William County, however, Tolson says it will be expanding to other parts of Northern Virginia in the summer.