Helpful Harvest was born out of the needs revealed by COVID-19, but food insecurity is not a new problem in Monongalia and Preston counties.
The pandemic has changed the game though, making it more difficult for families in need – some who were already struggling before and some who were not – to find and obtain food.
State food pantries reported a 53% increase in food requests during the pandemic.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust, the United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties is working to feed families through the end of 2020, with hopes of continuing the program in the new year. The trust donated $820,000 in June, $750,000 to go toward the food program and $70,000 to be used to renovate space in the former Ramada Inn, where the program will be housed.
Right now, food is being packed at Preston County Workshop by United Way staff, volunteers and workshop workers to give to food pantries, which then distribute to families in need in both counties.
In addition to this work and helping to store produce in its industrial refrigerator, Preston County Workshop has helped transport food through a partnership with Appalachian Sustainable Development’s Appalachian Harvest Food Hub, located in Duffield, Va., for 19 feeding programs in both counties. Along with the fresh produce purchased, that partnership also allows United Way to receive about 500 boxes a week from them through the USDA Food Box Program. The United Way will also purchase goods from local farms, as well as dry goods to distribute.
These partnerships will continue, even when the program moves into its renovated home in the former Ramada Inn.
The overarching goal of Helpful Harvest is to get food in the hands of those who need it most.
If you are in need of food or want to learn more about this program, contact your nearest food pantry or call the Helpful Harvest line at 304-322-2066.