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Interactive map spots West Virginia summer food programs

Summer Feeding Assistance interactive map. (Image Provided)

CHARLESTON — Several state agencies and volunteer groups have come together to ensure that students, their families and seniors don’t go hungry this summer as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc.

The West Virginia Department of Education, the Bureau of Senior Services, the West Virginia National Guard, West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster and the United Way have joined to create an interactive map to help connect people to food resources across the state.

Gov. Jim Justice announced the initiative Thursday during his daily coronavirus briefing at the Capitol.

“It’s unbelievable,” Justice said. “This map was created as a team effort. This is a wonderful example of coordination. You don’t get this all the time, and in West Virginia we are truly knocking it out of the park on this.”

The Summer Feeding Assistance interactive map allows seniors and families to search for food resources near them. According to the map, there are more than 600 resources available in all 55 counties for food pantries, as well as programs serving seniors, youth and all residents.

The map can be found at wvtourism.com/west-virginia-strong. Residents who are unable to access the map or have questions can dial 211 where a United Way team can help connect them with assistance.

“Because of this pandemic, many senior centers have closed and many summer camps are being canceled,” Justice said. “I want to make sure that all West Virginians who need help with food have access to it.”

The Summer Feeding Assistance builds upon the work done over the last two and a half months of the coronavirus pandemic by food banks, volunteer groups, county school systems, senior centers and the National Guard. The Guard has worked with food banks and schools to deliver supplies of food and five-day meal packs to help keep people fed while limiting physical contact.

“We’ve developed a comprehensive approach to better serve our citizens throughout the summer and into the next school year,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the National Guard. “It all comes down to the stabilization of population, showing West Virginians we care, that they all matter, and that we are going to work together cooperatively to get through this pandemic.”

Jenny Gannaway, executive director of WV VOAD, said her group has been working with foundations to help get personal protective equipment — face masks and face shields — to food bank workers and volunteers to help as they make deliveries to pantries across the state.

“We’re working to make sure the programs we need across our state has personal protective equipment,” Gannaway said. “We appreciate all the collaboration to make sure families in West Virginia are not going to sleep at night without food or knowing where their food is coming from the next day.”

The Department of Education and all 55 county school systems delivered more than 1 million meals each week to students during the last months of the school year as students finished their schooling at home. More than 300 sites across the state will provide food to students and families this summer through local school systems.

“From day one, the governor has asked that we make sure the basic needs of our children are taken care of,” said Clayton Burch, acting state superintendent of schools. “I don’t know if we’ve ever had all 55 counties as part of a summer feeding program the way we do now. I just can’t thank them enough.”

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com.

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