Facing Hunger Foodbank Celebrates 40 years of service

HUNTINGTON — Facing Hunger Foodbank hosted its “Time After Time ‘80s Extravaganza” Saturday night, celebrating its 40th anniversary and raising funds for two expansion projects that will improve accessibility to people with food insecurities and end multi-generational poverty.

Cyndi Kirkhart, Facing Hunger Foodbank chief executive officer, thanked presenting sponsor Dutch Miller Auto at the event Saturday for providing 1.5 million meals through the food bank and shared updates about the food bank’s plans along with an announcement that the Italian Festival, another fundraising event, would be returning in 2024.

Over the next year, Kirkhart said the food bank will turn the old Southern States store building on 7th Avenue, which has sat vacant since 2015, into a teaching kitchen, on-site food pantry, and additional storage.

Facing Hunger purchased the building last year using American Rescue Plan funds that West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice provided, she said, adding that Facing Hunger plans to have the space operational by the end of the first quarter of next year.

Two additions to Facing Hunger’s offerings that will be housed in the building will include an on-site food pantry that will be open seven days a week and a teaching kitchen, Kirkhart said, and the additional space will also allow Facing Hunger to double its warehouse space and have more ability to store perishable items through other cooler and freezer space.

“I think that the public wants everyone — every child, every family making tough daily decisions — to have enough to eat,” Kirkhart said. “West Virginia is known for multi-generational poverty but if we provide enough food for kids to thrive rather than survive, then I think we have a better chance of overcoming that.

“I think that there are so many families that are trying hard, and they’re working, and they don’t have adequate transportation, or they don’t have adequate child care, and there are a lot of things that money goes out to, but access to food should never be a challenge,” she continued. “So everything we’ve done, and every plan we have for expansion, is to have that food access infrastructure that people don’t have to think about. Where can I get food? It’s right there, and if they need it, we’ve got it, and I know that it will make this team that’s worked together now with me for nine years feel like everything they do every day has paid off.”

In addition to the Cabell County warehouse, Facing Hunger has also decided to expand to a 55,000-square-foot warehouse in Mingo County, from which the food bank will do home deliveries for senior boxes and other programs. The warehouse workers will be Mingo County residents, which will help the food bank be more efficient.

Both of the expansion projects will add 15 jobs on each site. Kirkhart says she is hopeful that the funding for both projects will be complete with help from Justice. Kirkhart expects the Mingo County project to start construction in the fourth quarter of this year.

“These expansion projects is going to expand accessibility. West Virginia is a beautiful state, but we don’t have a lot of public transportation in many of the communities we serve. We have agency partners, and if we can’t get to them as often as we have resources, they will drive here, so having that Mingo warehouse means they’ll be able to access products much more efficiently,” Kirkhart said. “They’ll be able to pick up product right in their community and do it more often and not have the challenges of, if they have a car, if they have a trailer, all of the things.”

Facing Hunger serves individuals in 17 counties in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. It serves 5,000 children a week through its backpack program, 1,200 households a week through its mobile pantries, 1,000 people a month through its medically tailored food box program, and about 10,000 people a month through its Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) for seniors, Kirkhart said. She said Facing Hunger’s food is distributed through home deliveries and scheduled direct distributions to sites.

“I think that one of the things we strive hard to do is to ensure that the community understands the work of the food bank, and everyone that comes in always leaves going, ‘Wow, I had no idea’ because sometimes people think that we’re a food pantry. We’re a food bank supporting 252 food pantries. We generally see 800 households a week at mobile pantry distributions.”

Kirkhart encourages people to come in for a tour of the food bank and use its website to explore all the work that it does.

“Talent and treasure donations are welcome,” she said. “An hour here or there helping us box things or, you know, add distribution, or we have Saturday volunteer hours once a month. Everyone can contribute — everyone, even if it’s an hour.”

For more information on the food bank and how to get involved, visit https://facinghunger.org.

Original Article: https://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/facing-hunger-foodbank-hosts-fundraising-event-looks-forward-to-expansion-projects/article_f03e8f27-bc2d-5e58-8d71-5f70d06f1044.html


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