MORGANTOWN — Food insecurity is a significant challenge in Monongalia County, and the need for increased access to healthy foods has become more widespread as a result of pandemic-related economic challenges.
“I’d say the pandemic has certainly made increased need across our different programs and also made it harder to run those programs with pandemic safety concerns for volunteers and clients alike,” said Roark Sizemore, president of the board of directors of Pantry Plus More, an all-volunteer nonprofit based in Morgantown that operates free in-school food pantries, monthly mobile food giveaways, and health and wellness programs involving fresh food distribution.
Pantry Plus More is among the resources in the area, from dollars to skills to social capital, local people are finding ways to collaborate in order to connect community needs with community resources.
The Dominion Post previously reported on several young people involved in 4-H and FFA who were preparing for the Monongalia County Fair Youth Livestock Auction. The series explored the many benefits of this experience for the young people involved, as well as some community benefits related to animal welfare, food quality and national food security. Now, several weeks after this event, the people of Monongalia County are benefiting from the auction in another way.
Monica Maxwell, a Monongalia County Fair Youth Livestock volunteer, said this year’s auction was a success, with “more than 1,800 pounds in live weight of donations” being made to Pantry Plus More.
Maxwell added that, “Sen. Randy E. Smith purchased six market chickens, Mark Nesselroad purchased a market steer, and Clear Mountain Bank purchased two market hogs.”
Following these purchases, “Processing was paid by buyers and Hasenpfeffer Farms. Maxwell Farms provided coordination and transportation of the final product to Pantry Plus More.”
According to the organization’s website, since 2016, it has “distributed over 350,000 pounds of food to families in need.”
Serving the community on such a large scale is possible only because of volunteers, donors and collaborative efforts among local residents, nonprofits and businesses.
Sizemore explained the value of these donations.
“Protein is vital for child growth and development, but unfortunately one of the most expensive items,” he said. “We try to make sure we can give children everything they need to have consistent, well-balanced meals so they can grow, develop and focus on learning instead of hunger. The beef and pork donations we received will provide hundreds of kids balanced meals as we will give out meat with all the other ingredients they need.”
To learn more about Pantry Plus more, including how to donate or volunteer, visit www.pantryplusmore.org. Residents can also support these kinds of community efforts by purchasing foods produced by local farms like Hasenpfeffer Farms and Maxwell Farms.