Hunger Awareness on the Rise in Monongalia County - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Hunger Awareness on the Rise in Monongalia County

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Local food programs have grown recently and many now include students. The problem of hunger isn't necessarily growing though; people are just noticing it more.

"You don't wear (hunger)," said Lisa McMorrow, the program director at Scott's Run Settlement House in Morgantown. "It could be a neighbor. It doesn't necessarily mean that those people don't have anything, hunger is everywhere."

Scott's Run Settlement House is just one food pantry in Monongalia County and 2011 was a busy year.

"In the last year, 4,802 individuals came to our food pantry," McMorrow said. "We've seen an increase in the number of seniors we're serving as well as the number of families with young children."

That's not even counting the 216 bags of food they're now sending home with students from Mylan Park Elementary every weekend. That's half of the student population there.

It's not just young students who are feeling the hunger pangs either.

West Virginia University is also providing more necessities for students than ever through the Rack, a walk-up food pantry in the Mountain Lair.

"We don't want to see anyone drop out because the struggles are just so overwhelming," said Jacqueline Dooley, program coordinator at WVU's Student Organizations Services.

Since the Rack opened in the fall of 2010, Dooley estimates more than 2,000 students have helped feed themselves with it.

Evan Johnson is one of them.

"Money's kind of tight this semester, well, last semester too, but more than usual so it's nice that I can grab something," Johnson said, "and nobody abuses it."

The Rack tries to be as least intrusive as possible, so there aren't detailed records on each student using the Rack.

Thanks to grants and community support, it now offers household items for families too, and it's raising awareness about hunger on campuses across the country.

"I've heard from a school in Tennessee and one in Texas," Dooley said, "I just completed an email to the school in Tennessee, so we are making an impact throughout the nation because people are calling."

When the school year ends, while the number of people the Rack will need to feed drops off, the demand on local food pantries like Scott's Run will spike. They depend on food and donation drives in the spring to keep their shelves stocked and their clients full and happy.