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Holiday Food Drive

Pantry Plus More shares most sought after items

by Olivia Murray 

Local food pantries are especially in need of donations during the 2020 holiday season, which coincides with a post-Thanksgiving spike in COVID-19 cases in Monongalia County.

While these organizations welcome all donations, representatives  want those interested in donating to be aware of which products are most sought after and helpful.

Amy Schwinabart, family resource manager for United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties, provided a brief list of goods  the organization will accept for donation. This includes non-expired and nonperishable canned goods, boxed goods and ready-to-eat products. United Way will not accept unlabeled or damaged goods.

United Way also accepts and encourages donations of personal hygiene and household cleaning products.

Earlier this year, United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties received the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust grant, which allowed the organization to fund a Helpful Harvest program.

“The goal was to get food in the hands of those who need it most, especially in the pandemic, but also going forward,” Schwinabart said.

She added  the organization is “excited” by the response the program has received.

“Keep the donations coming; there’s always going to be that need,” Schwinabart said.

Roark Sizemore, president of the board of  Pantry Plus More, described the products and goods  his organization looks for. Nonperishables are always accepted, though Sizemore said the organization would like to receive more than canned food and ramen packages.

“Think about the stuff that you would buy for your own family or your own kids. That’s the kind of stuff we’re looking for,” Sizemore said.

 Pantry Plus More also has a refrigerator and freezer, so  products like meat, eggs and milk can be stored.  Pantry Plus More also  accepts monetary donations.

Sizemore detailed the impact  COVID-19 has had not only on the organization but on the community it serves. In money giveaway programs held prior to COVID-19, Sizemore said the organization averaged  50-200 participants. During COVID-19, the programs have seen an increase to more than 300 participants.

“There’s a distinct need that’s greater than it was before now,” Sizemore said.

Sizemore added that food insecurity is a significant issue in West Virginia. In Monongalia County, Sizemore said  there are currently more than 2,700 children  who are food insecure and 1 in 5 children in  West Virginia experience food insecurity.

“If we can’t give these kids food, they can’t take advantage of education, or kind of pull themselves out of poverty,” Sizemore said.

Sizemore said organizations like  Pantry Plus More strive to give kids and families the tools they need to take advantage of their education. However, Sizemore said there is a need for a bigger, more permanent solution to food insecurity.

“Food assistance programs are a Band-Aid for a problem that needs a surgery,” Sizemore said.

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