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Doctors lead effort to raise funds for food bank

WVU Today

More and more West Virginians, financially burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic, are turning to food banks to put meals on their tables — and one team of West Virginia University physicians is pledging to provide more fresh and frozen food for those in need.

Through a dedicated School of Medicine outreach program — HOPE — the team is working to raise $90,000 for a refrigerated trailer for West Virginians via Mountaineer Food Bank.

HOPE — which stands for health\care, opportunity, people and education — serves to identify community-based needs and improve access to health care throughout the state, as well as working to enhance West Virginia’s economic status.

“Our land-grant mission is to help the residents of West Virginia and we take that mission very seriously,” Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president and executive dean for WVU Health Sciences, said. Marsh charged his assistant deans for outreach with identifying ways to help West Virginians  amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to the economic impact, food banks in West Virginia and beyond have seen a significant rise in demand in recent months.

Longtime Mountaineer Food Bank supporter Dr. Larry Rhodes, executive director of rural programs for the Health Sciences Center and professor for the School of Medicine’s Division of Pediatric Cardiology, suggested partnering with the organization, West Virginia’s largest emergency food provider. Dr. Joe Prudhomme, assistant dean for outreach and associate professor for the School of Medicine, devised the fundraising drive for a refrigerated trailer.

“Everybody has plenty of dry storage, but refrigeration capacity is the limiting factor,” Prudhomme said.

Raising money for a refrigerated trailer that can be used to distribute fresh and frozen foods across the state seemed like a timely project they could reasonably tackle, Prudhomme said. He’s encouraging faculty, students and staff to contribute and hopes to eventually get participants across campus involved with food distribution.

Centrally located in Braxton County, MFB distributes over 16.7 million pounds of food annually to more than 450 feeding programs in 48 of the state’s 55 counties.

Nearly $25,000 has been raised or pledged to date. That total includes pledges of $10,000 from the HOPE program and $10,000 from the four physicians behind the effort. In addition to Rhodes and Prudhomme, Dr. John Brick, associate dean of rural outreach and J.F. Brick Endowed Chair of Neurology for the School of Medicine, and Dr. Rebecca Schmidt, assistant dean for outreach and professor for the School of Medicine, are involved.

Donations to the food bank can be made online at a dedicated crowdfunding page. General donations can be made to the Health Outreach Fund at to support the HOPE program.

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