The start of the 2021-2022 school year will also mark the end of an almost 17-month volunteer campaign to provide local residents with a free lunch and other essentials in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Peter Burnett, a local attorney and founder of the Ampersand Pantry Project, announced to supporters that he has chosen the start of the school year to end the free lunch program, as students will be receiving nutritional support through the school system and the weekend Backpack Buddies program. His email also noted that demand at the food pantry has begun to wane, in concert with the widespread distribution of vaccines and increased employment opportunities.
Burnett has held off on beginning construction on his coworking space project at the Ampersand’s distribution site at 338 E. Market St. in Leesburg, but he won’t be waiting for much longer. When dirt gets moving on the site, Ampersand will move its operations to the former liquor store space in the Virginia Village shopping center for the remainder of the summer, thanks to a partnership with landowner Brian Cullen. Burnett said he does not yet have an established date as to when this relocation will occur.
Since Ampersand began its operations April 16, 2020, more than 103,000 free lunches have been distributed, along with 750,000 diapers, 20,000 pounds of pet food, free flowers, haircuts, hygiene products, and fresh vegetables.
“I could not be more proud of our community and what we have accomplished to date. With just a few more donations, I am confident we will hit the planned finish line,” Burnett wrote.
For more information about Ampersand or to make a donation, go to burnettwilliams.com/about/ampersand-pantry-project-2.