Following the closure of all non-essential businesses in West Virginia, the state's two food banks have ramped up efforts to feed the vulnerable, according to the state Department of Agriculture.
While precautionary measures have been taken, both food banks continue operations to serve the needs of those facing hunger in all West Virginia counties, Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt said Monday.
“The emergency food supply chain has not been disrupted despite the COVID-19 pandemic," Leonhardt said.
"Both food banks in the state continue to receive USDA emergency commodities to distribute to food pantries and other feeding programs in all 55 counties.
Mountaineer Food Bank and Facing Hunger Food Bank continue to deliver and distribute food to the most vulnerable populations in the state "with no anticipation of that changing," he said.
"Additionally, both food banks are sourcing truckloads of other food to distribute into the emergency feeding network.”
To meet the demand, both organizations have responded by distributing Emergency Food Boxes to partner food pantries and through mobile food pantries, according to state officials.
The Emergency Food Boxes contain a variety of shelf-stable food items, as well as, proteins and produce. Although distributions have been modified, both food banks remain completely operational and will continue distributing USDA food and Emergency Food Boxes to their network of food pantries throughout the state.
Cynthia Kirkhart, executive director at Facing Hunger, thanked the program's partners.
“Facing Hunger Food Bank has so many wonderful partner agencies without whom we could not meet the almost 40 percent increase in need that we have had in these early days of the crisis,” Kirkhart said.
“Although there may be very tough days ahead, we are grateful to be able to partner with Mountaineer Food Bank and the Department of Agriculture to insure that all in need across our great state are served.”
The National Guard has also stepped in to help both food banks pack Emergency Food Boxes. On average, the guard is packing around 1,200 boxes a day to be distributed to partner food pantries and mobile food pantries across the state.
Thanks to its assistance, the two food banks can focus on continuing to feed those in need during this time, said Chad Morrison, executive director of Mountaineer Food Bank.
“We are committed to feeding families here in West Virginia and doing that in a safe and effective manner is our number one priority, Morrison said.
"Our food pantries are doing a wonderful job in this crisis, and we will continue to provide them food to feed their communities.”
While operations continue for both food banks, the need for funding remains. With an increase in demand for assistance also comes an increase in cost for both organizations.
For updates on both organization’s response efforts, individuals can visit the organization’s website and Facebook pages.