275,280 people across West Virginia are considered food insecure.
“It’s happening. It’s happening in our neighbors. It’s happening in our communities. It’s happening throughout our state,” said Chad Morrison, Executive Director of the Mountaineer Food Bank.
Food insecurity and hunger are happening every single day.
The Mountaineer Food Bank said it’s a daily struggle for many that don’t have access to or can’t purchase food.
“That means that they can’t go into their house and don’t have options,” Morrison explained. “They’re not able to go and make those choices that a lot of people are able to go to the grocery store and say I’d like to have this.”
The Mountaineer Food Bank itself covers 48 counties, but hunger is a problem in all 55 counties especially in the Southern parts of West Virginia.
According to the latest data from Feeding America in 2015, McDowell County has the highest food insecurity rate at around 22 percent or just 4,650 people.
In North Central West Virginia, Gilmer and Webster Counties have the highest numbers of child food insecurity with around 24 percent each. That amounts to 300 children in Gilmer and 450 in Webster.
The Food Bank also said more rural counties like Doddridge, Ritchie, Tyler and Wetzel are very in need.
“A lot of times if they don’t have access to grocery stores, they don’t have access to transportation, they don’t have access to schools or any of those networks that we look at that more of the urban parts of the state have,” Morrison said.
Even in more urban counties, there’s still an issue.
Higher populated areas often have a higher cost of living, a higher homeless population and sometimes food can’t be a family’s first purchase.
“They’re having to make those choices between do I have a vehicle or do I pay for transportation or do I go here and buy healthy food?” Morrison said.
So how can you help? First, advocate and don’t let conversations about hunger stop because the Mountaineer Food Bank said oftentimes hunger gets overshadowed by other issues.
Second, donate your time to your local food pantry.
“A lot of our food pantries, the food bank itself, we need people to come in and help us with this,” Morrison said. He also added that many food pantries across the state have mostly older volunteers, which can be a challenge with the amount of heavy lifting.
If able, you can also give a monetary donation.
“The food bank itself, we can take a dollar and turn that in to 10 meals,” Morrison explained. “We’re able to go out and source food in bulk and bring it in to West Virginia, bring it into our food bank, and distribute it to our local network.”
For more information on the Mountaineer Food Bank, or to donate to the organization, visit mountaineerfoodbank.org.