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People reach out to feed Wood County’s hungry

Organizations and individuals are working together to feed the hungry in Wood County.

Fourteen food pantries are members of the Wood County Emergency Food Co-op, said Linda Crocker, president of the co-op and parish ministries coordinator at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Parkersburg.

There are additional food pantries in Wood County that are not members of the emergency food co-op.

Crocker said the food pantries usually assist more individuals and families at the end of the month when their government assistance runs out. The homeless need help with food all the time, she added.

Some of the food pantries need volunteers to work there, Crocker said.

The United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley serves as a conduit to put hungry individuals and families in touch with food pantries and other food distribution sites.

There are over 30 food pantries in Wood County, said Stacy DeCicco, executive director of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

“We support the food pantries. They do great work,” DeCicco said.

One in six residents in Wood County, and across the Mid-Ohio Valley, faces “food insecurity,” DeCicco said.

Wood County schools operate food pantries. Churches and civic organizations provide food for schoolchildren to take home for the weekends.

“We have hungry kids in the Mid-Ohio Valley,” DeCicco said.

DeCicco sees the hunger crisis in Wood County and surrounding area as a “fixable problem.”

“When we work together, maximize our resources, build collaborations, we can make sure that our neighbors are not going without the basic need,” she said.

DeCicco encourages people in need of food and other assistance to call 211 — the United Way’s information and referral line. They will be referred to the food pantry closest to their homes.

Food pantries will call the United Way if they run short on food, DeCicco said. Individuals and groups provide items and money to help the food pantries.

DeCicco recommends that groups holding food drives contact the food pantry first so arrangements can be made on food delivery or pickup.

The local United Way receives food from the Mountaineer Food Bank in Gassaway, which provides food for 48 counties in West Virginia.

Mountaineer Food Bank recently provided food to 575 people at a mobile pantry at the Chemours plant parking lot in Washington Bottom. The food bank will be stopping at Chemours again from 1-3 p.m. Nov. 22 and 1-3 p.m. Dec. 12, with Chemours providing volunteers to help with the distribution.

Representatives of area food pantries meet several times a year with United Way officials to discuss food distribution issues as part of the United Way Hunger Solutions Initiative. United Way donors can give money to local feeding programs through this hunger initiative.

At a Hunger Solutions meeting, food pantry representatives noted they needed plastic bags to place food in for hungry residents, DeCicco said.

Representatives at these meetings have discussed the need to monitor diet concerns involving people getting food at the pantries.

Food pantries and the United Way are seeing senior citizens and grandparents who are taking care of grandchildren seeking food assistance. Families where one of the spouses has lost a job are now seeking food assistance.

Some local residents are faced with the choice of buying food or buying prescription drugs or paying a utility bill, DeCicco said.

Some people are hesitant to ask for help, she said.

With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approaching, the need for food among families increases, said Crocker and DeCicco.

Members of the Wood County Emergency Food Co-op are Baptist Temple, Parkersburg; Beechwood Presbyterian Church, Parkersburg; By The Grace of God, Gihon and Lost Pavement roads; Christ United Methodist Church, Parkersburg; Christian Community Cupboard (Lubeck); DAV No. 32, Old Murphytown School, Stillwell Road; Fairlawn Baptist Church, Parkersburg; First Lutheran Church, Parkersburg; Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Parkersburg; Grace Baptist Church, Parkersburg; North Parkersburg Baptist Church, Parkersburg; Parkersburg Urban Ministries, Parkersburg; St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, Parkersburg, and Vienna Good Samaritan Center, Vienna.

“We treat all (those seeking food) with respect,” Crocker said.

Contact Paul LaPann at plapann@newsandsentinel.com

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