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United Way processing kitchen opens in Preston

United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties hosted an open house for its new Processing Kitchen Monday.

The kitchen is the latest addition to its Helpful Harvest Food Program, which provides help to those in the community who suffer from food insecurity.

The Processing Kitchen provides an area to process what is being grown, purchased and donated through the program. The kitchen will be used to freeze, can or dry food to prevent food waste and to serve nutritional foods in the winter months.

According to United Way, Helpful Harvest is also partnering with Preston County Schools to get the corn harvested soon into the school lunches.

The organization plans for the program to grow over time. Future endeavors include food preservation classes so people can learn to be more self-sufficient and food secure.

The No. 1 need at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was food, and with that in mind, Helpful Harvest was born. The program gets fresh produce, local meats and dairy items, and nonperishables to 40-plus area pantries and programs thanks to great partnerships in this community.

A grant from the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust and the Milan Puskar Foundation, allowed the United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties to start the program housed in the former hotel on Scott Avenue.

Food is being packed at the Helpful Harvest headquarters at 20 Scott Ave., with other assistance at Preston County Workshop.

Along with the fresh produce purchased, a partnership with Appalachian Harvest Food Hub, in Duffield, Va., also allows United Way to receive about 500 boxes a week from them through the USDA Food Box Program.

The overarching goal of Helpful Harvest is to get food in the hands of those who need it most.