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Pantry Plus More provides: Organization plans food drop-offs during school closure

Forget the toilet paper.

What’s for lunch?

Well, a day from now, it will be instant oatmeal, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly (along with bread, of course, for a sandwich).

That, and tuna, trail mix, Ramen noodles, granola bars — plus pasta, popcorn and dried fruit.

The above is just a sampling of what’s going in those Pantry Plus More boxes coming to a select bus stop near you starting Tuesday.

The locations of those stops were yet to be announced Sunday.

Pantry Plus More is the Westover outreach group that provides non-perishable food, personal hygiene items and clothing to needy youngsters across the county.

In Monongalia and West Virginia’s 54 other counties today, you can call it Coronavirus Monday.

The first Monday, in the first week without school, while public officials here wait for a (feared) onslaught of cases of the illness that has already shut down much of the U.S. and the world.

While schools in Mon will serve lunch in their cafeterias from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Friday, starting today, transportation is a factor for many families whose kids rely on the supplemental food.

And as Roark Sizemore said, kids can’t eat — if they can’t get there.

That’s where the bus stops and the boxes come in, he said.

“We just want to be able to sustain kids nutritionally while this is going on,” the WVU student and pantry co-founder said Sunday.

Food, secure

“Sustain,” is the watch-word for the organization. Sizemore propelled the pantry into being as a high school student in 2016.

He was helped in the effort by Madison Thompson, a Morgantown native and WVU student, and Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom, then a guidance counselor in the county school system.

Food insecurity — that is, the state of literally not getting enough to eat — is a big part of the Pantry Plus recipe.

That’s even in relatively prosperous Mon, Sizemore said, where 2,700 kids go hungry every day.

“I think people believe it’s a problem in other parts of West Virginia,” he said. “That it’s my neighbors, not me, and that’s a false notion.”

Concerning the coronavirus and confirmed cases, right now, it’s also West Virginia’s neighbors.

As of Sunday, there were no confirmed cases in the Mountain State, but look for that to change, Gov. Jim Justice said.

“We know it’s here,” he said this past Friday, as he announced the school closures.

“I mean, let’s be real. It has to be here. We have a monster looming.”

And, in a state with an aging population — where diabetes, heart disease and other chronic health maladies already rule the patient chart — that might mean a quarantined, shut-down society for weeks and months, even, while the coronavirus runs its course.

Which adds to the food insecurity, said Micah Weglinksi, the Pantry Plus volunteer who is coordinating the food deliveries.

He hopes to have 130 boxes at those bus stops by at least noon Tuesday.
That same amount will go out again Thursday.

“The boxes will have enough food for four people,” he said. “That’s what we took as an average-size family here.”

Each box has enough food (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for three to four days, Weglinski said.

Volunteers will do the deliveries, Bloom said, and will likely wear gloves during that process.

A minimum number of volunteers will also be involved, he said — “That’s for self-distancing.”

Visit the Pantry Plus More page on Facebook for updates as they come available.

Donation directive
In the meantime, the pantry is holding a food giveaway from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in Star City.

“We’re gonna do it as a drive-through,” the commissioner said. “You won’t even have to get out of your car. Minimal contact.”

Bloom said he appreciates the maximum contact he’s experienced from the community in recent days.

The shelves at Pantry Plus were already overstocked, he said.

“We knew what was coming,” he said.

“We started getting together to talk about it and plan. Our board met yesterday [Saturday] to finalize everything.”

Each pandemic edition Pantry Plus box costs $30 to fill, Bloom said.

“That adds up,” he said.

Donations are crucial, the commissioner said, especially if coronavirus cases here stack up, as many pandemic-watchers worry.

“The other day, we got an envelope,” he said.

“It contained money and a note that said, ‘Use this the best way to help the kids.’ We’re lucky to live in a community like this. We take care of our own.”

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