BUCKHANNON – An estimated 324,000 people in West Virginia have struggled with hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Strategic Gifts Officer Mountaineer Food Bank Laura Hedrick spoke to the Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur during their Aug. 17 meeting.
“Our mission at Mountaineer Food Bank is to feed West Virginia’s hungry through a network of feeding programs and engage our state in the fight to end hunger,” Hedrick said. “We were founded in 1981 in Gassaway, so this is our 40th anniversary and we’re trying to make a big to-do about it.”
In the last year alone, the Mountaineer Food Bank has distributed 9 billion pounds of food.
“We provide food and other household items to over 480 feeding programs in 48 counties throughout the state, and these programs include food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, senior programs, backpack programs and churches,” Hedrick said. “By donating to Mountaineer Food Bank, not only are you serving a local food pantry, but you’re serving all of the food pantries in your county – and beyond.”
The Mountaineer Food Bank delivers food to several programs in Upshur County, including the Central West Virginia Center for Pregnancy Care Crosslines, Feed the Hungry backpack program, Heaston UMC of Hodgesville backpack program, Randall Hughes Ministries and the Salvation Army.
“Currently, one in seven West Virginians is struggling with food insecurity, and that’s one in five children, so it’s pretty bad and it’s gotten even worse with the pandemic,” Hedrick said. “The rate of food insecurity in West Virginia as a whole is 13.9 percent, and the estimated budget shortfall to meet these needs is $114,692,000, so that’s why it’s really important that we get as many donations and as much funding as possible.”
The Mountaineer Food Bank also offers their mobile pantry program in 41 of the 48 counties with which it works in West Virginia.
“We take one of our trucks like you see there, and it’s refrigerated full of food and advertise to promote and raise awareness of our events,” Hedrick said. “We do a drive-thru style food distribution, so we bring the truck, we park it in the parking lot, and we unload the food right there and pack the boxes. That way everything is at the proper temperature, and we have the lines of cars come in and people usually will pop their trunk or put it in their backseat, and we do an assembly line style. We take the food, and we kind of move it down the line and serve all these people who are coming through.”
They do these types of food pantries at the West Virginia Wildlife Center, the Brushy Fork Event Center and the Buckhannon-Upshur High School.
“We usually do these bimonthly – usually it’s from about 11a.m. to 1 p.m. – and we do accept volunteers to help with these events so if this is something you guys would be interested in helping with, I can get you hooked up with our volunteer coordinator and see when we can do one as a group,” Hedrick said.
Individuals looking for places to receive food can go here, where the Mountaineer Food Bank lists all the local food pantries they help stock.