Editorial: People, food pantries hungry in summer

For most of human history in the Northern Hemisphere, the leanest time of year was spring and summer, before new crops ripened and when last year’s stores were depleted.

Even while gardens and farms are bursting with tomatoes and sweet corn, families who struggle to afford enough food find this a difficult time of year, and so do the organizations that help. In a recent commentary, Ellen Allen, director of Charleston’s Covenant House, wrote that her group has provided food to 6,105 people during the first six months of this year, compared to 5,592 people in all of 2010. Running an emergency food pantry isn’t even the main role of Covenant House. The charity did not even budget for food in 2010.

People who run the state’s food pantries have long said summer is a tough time. Donors tend to think helping food pantries at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and during cold weather. But the need for food may actually go up in summer, just at a time when donations can drop off. Children who rely on school meals during the school year are home and hungry in summer.

Also this year, Allen observed, SNAP benefits expanded by the 2009 Recovery Act expired, causing benefits to fall by about 7 percent. While the economy is in better shape and adding jobs, those jobs have not necessarily come back in the same places or for the same people who lost them. More middle-income, or formerly middle-income people, are seeking help to feed their households, Allen says.

Covenant House always welcomes donations of non-perishable food or money. They can be dropped off at Covenant House or at First Presbyterian Church in Charleston. Checks can be mailed to Covenant House, 600 Shrewsbury St, Charleston WV 25301.

Covenant House and other charities work with the larger regional food banks, which also accept donations of both food and money:

-- Mountaineer Food Bank, serving 48 West Virginia counties out of a central warehouse in Gassaway, asks that mailed donations be sent to Mountaineer Food Bank, Attn: Fundraising, 484 Enterprise Drive, Gassaway, WV 26624. The food bank will pick up large donations of food. To arrange a pick-up, call 304-364-5518.

-- Facing Hunger Foodbank, formerly known as the Huntington Area Food Bank, serves Mason, Putnam, Lincoln, Logan, Mingo, Cabell, Wayne, Kanawha, Jackson, Boone, Wyoming and McDowell counties and a few counties in Kentucky and Ohio. Donations may be mailed to Facing Hunger Foodbank, 1327 7th Ave., Huntington, WV 25701.

-- Of course, in Charleston, Manna Meal runs a kitchen to serve prepared food to people who need it and also sends people home with food. Donations may be mailed to Manna Meal, Inc., 1105 Quarrier St., Charleston, WV 25301. Food donations may be dropped off at the same address daily between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.

All the sites accept donations online, and several list commonly needed items and other ways to help or volunteer.

“Anytime Manna Meal and the food banks receive donations we all benefit,” Allen said.

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