MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The monthly Mobile Food Bank of Monongalia County stopped by the Mountaineer Mall on Saturday, where there was a long line of cars waiting to receive free food.
The Food Bank normally runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., but about an hour in they had already served around 325 cars or roughly 1,000 people and were running out of food. Daniel Brewster, a volunteer who has been helping out for about 2-3 years, said it was indicative of how big of a problem food insecurity is in West Virginia and Monongalia Co. specifically.
“Particularly right now a lot of people are out of work and the $1,200 payment that was given out is not enough,” Brewster said. “It covered a month or two for most families and a lot of people are struggling right now. And so we’ve been working for two years more so for anything because we know that is something that’s needed.”
Brewster said the turnout was the largest they had seen all year. He said he thought the records set when the virus began were significant, but this takes things to a different level.
“This is kind of startling,” Brewster said. We thought some of the groups we saw in March and April were going to be some of the most significant and this is just a demonstration that there a lot of social problems are going on right now and it’s extending into the summer. And a lot of these people are afraid of what’s going to happen once unemployment checks stop coming and a lot of like services are not available. A lot of these food pantries are running scarce right now.”
Monongalia Co. Commissioner Tom Bloom, also the executive director of Pantry Plus More, which helps to organize the food bank, went as far as saying it was the largest crowd they had ever seen.
Bloom said there were easily more than 100 people more than they are accustomed to helping. He, like Brewster, attributed the cause of the increased numbers to COVID-19. Plus, he added that he was concerned.
“Where my concern is now, we have the virus here, we’re very worried and we’re monitoring very carefully,” Bloom said. “But, if the governor closes other things down, this is what you’re going to see a lot more of and we have to stop this, we have to work together. Because this is very scary right now and it’s getting worse right now and we need help from the governor. One of my recommendations is to use some of that fund from the $1.2 billion in the CARES Act and help Monongalia County.
The exact figure from the federal COVID-19 relief funding distributed through the CARES Act is $1.25 billion and Bloom said he does not believe that the governor is spending it wisely. He said that money could be instrumental to help mitigate the problem of Food insecurity in counties like his.
“One of the concerns that we have in Monongalia Co. is that the three branches of government are not being served by West Virginias, right now the legislative branch is the one that dictates where the money goes,” Bloom said. “They are not called in session, so what we have is one individual in charge of $1.2 billion and I’ll say this — what would the public of West Virginia see? Look at this, would they rather see funding and money goes to food and funding for people or would they rather see funding for potholes? I don’t know too many potholes that have the virus.”