Facing food insecurity

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  • Teresa Wilson
    American softball coach

Jan. 11—ASHTON — A mobile food distribution with Facing Hunger Food Bank is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 13 at the Crosslight of Hope Food Pantry in Ashton.

Registration for the event begins at 10 a.m. on Thursday. Food distribution begins at 11 a.m. and will last until 1 p.m. or until all of the product is gone.

Teresa Wilson, coordinator Crosslight of Hope, said usual monthly food box distributions serve around 130 families. Wilson expects close to 200 coming to the distribution scheduled for Thursday.

The Facing Hunger Food Bank was founded in 1983 in Huntington, West Virginia and has since grown to serve 252 agencies across 17 counties in West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southeastern Ohio.

Wilson said the food distribution with Facing Hunger will run like the monthly distribution — which she said has moved to once a month as a drive-thru service, due to COVID.

"We're fortunate that our landlord owns the property beside us," Wilson said. "It's a large, red [building], it used to be an auction house. The cars will line up around the auction house, they [will] circle the auction house and then drive over into our parking lot."

Wilson said it does still get backed up at times during the regular distribution days, so drivers should be cautious driving through the area.

Those attending the distribution will need to know the ages of everyone living in their home and Wilson said it is best if they bring some form of physical proof of their Mason County address.

"Just in order to keep the statistics so that we know what sort of clientele that we're serving in our county," Wilson said. "They specifically ask for how many children, how many adults and how many senior members live in each household."

Food insecurity is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as, "a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food."

Feeding America conducted a "Map the Meal Gap" study to better understand food insecurity and cost across the county and at a local level.

According to the 2019 study results, there are 242,180 people in West Virginia with food insecurities.

The "Map the Meal Gap" study showed 3,420 people — over 1,100 children — or 12.8% in Mason County having food insecurities in 2019. The study said this was an annual food budget shortfall of $1,658,000.

"Any kind of survey or any kind of information gathering has always shown Mason County rank very high in food insecurity," Wilson said.

"The USDA states that over 16 million children are food insecure in the United States. That is over one in for American children," according to the Facing Hunger Food Bank. "38% of the people that Feeding America serves are under the age of 18, and almost four out of five households that receive help from Feeding America have a child under the age of 18 living with them."

Facing Hunger's website says that hunger not only impacts the children's health, but also educational opportunities and impacts society in the long run.

Wilson said while children rank high for food insecurity in the area, so do senior citizens.

"We live in an area that is difficult for a senior to be able to get out for a quick trip to the grocery store," Wilson said. "And a lot of times, it's difficult for them to make longer trips."

According to Facing Hunger, "In West Virginia, 52 out of 55 counties have a higher than average senior population. In 2010, 9% of the elderly lived below the poverty line, if medical expenses are taken into account, that rate jumps to 16%.

"In our area specifically, I have a lot of clients who pick up for, you know, their entire hill," Wilson said. "People who get for four or five families. We have one woman who doesn't even pick up the box at all, but she drives around her community, her direct area, and she picks up for anywhere between 10 to 13 clients, who have already [gone] through the registration process and have paperwork. She serves as what we call a proxy, that she has a vehicle and she is willing to go and get everybody's food and distribute it because there are a lot of folks that don't have a running vehicle. There are a lot of folks that just can't get out because of their health concerns."

Wilson said she has several proxies and that working with the community is a blessing.

"That's the thing about our community is that everyone really does look out for one another and tries to help the best that they can," Wilson said. "It's just a blessing, just on a normal distribution day to see how many folks are willing to help those that are in need."

Wilson said she hopes the generosity around the holidays can continue all year.

"I think a lot of folks think with the holidays and stuff happening, there were folks who were touched and moved to help those who are less fortunate and donate food or more time or financially, but we need that year round," Wilson said.

Wilson said sometimes the need is greater after the holidays.

"The families have scrimped and saved and tried to provide for their family, some gifts," Wilson said. "So now more than ever, they are a little short for their monthly supply. We are always in the need of food, always in the need of prayer and for volunteer work."

Wilson said during monthly distribution and especially Thursday's distribution — with the plentiful donation from Facing Hunger — volunteers who are able to lift, carry and help load vehicles are needed.

Those wishing to help on Thursday can show up at Crosslight on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. and will be given instructions, Wilson said.

Crosslight of Hope Food Pantry is held the third Wednesday of each month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., unless scheduling is an issue. The pantry does do a "means" test to see if a household qualifies based on size and income. Those receiving SNAP benefits, automatically qualify, Wilson said.

Information can be found on their Facebook page. Those wishing to volunteer can contact Wilson through the pantry's Facebook page or call 304-576-2971.

© 2022, Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.

Brittany Hively is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @britthively; reach her at (740) 446-2342 ext 2555.

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