BUCKHANNON — One in seven West Virginians and one in five West Virginia children struggle with hunger. The Food for All Hunger Summit gathered Tuesday at the Event Center at Brushy Fork to try to come up with a plan to fight hunger in West Virginia. Chad Morrison, executive director of the Mountaineer Food Bank said something needs to change to make food more accessible for everyone.
“Today we've got a wide group of individuals and coalitions and organizations coming together to talk about food policies that need implemented or need to change to make food more accessible,” Morrison said. “Really the point is to make sure that people that are struggling with food insecurity have access to nutritious food and they have a way to do that in a sustainable manner.”
Seth DiStefano, policy outreach director for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said it was time to go on the offensive against hunger.
“I think far too often we find ourselves in a reactive position when it comes to hunger policy in West Virginia,” DiStefano said. “A lot of coalition partners have been asking over the last several months. ‘We really we want to go on the offense and we want to do things that will help alleviate child hunger. We want to do things that support our food banks.’”
DiStefano said part of the summit was to come up with solutions for the problem and he would explain that hunger could be solved sooner rather than later.
“Hunger is not a hard problem in West Virginia,” he said. “It's just about making it a priority. Today, I'm going to talk about how you can use very simple data to make very persuasive arguments with decision makers to show them that addressing hunger is not only the right thing to do, but it's not hard.”
Morrison said the summit is a good place to talk about hunger so everyone can work together to solve the problem.
“There's a lot of people having conversations,” Morrison said. “A lot of times, we have these conversations in silos, and we don't get a whole lot done outside of those silos. This summit is a great opportunity for people that are working in different arenas of hunger to get together and see what everybody's doing, and how we can work together to actually make a difference. It may not be exactly what we're working on in our field, but it's something that we can help work together to push through a good policy because it's what's needed in West Virginia.”
DiStefano said the summit had people from different backgrounds such as the faith community, representatives from food banks across the state and direct service organizations from across the region.
“It really is a good cross section of individuals who are both on the front lines and through advocacy and organizing and direct service are seeing hunger every day,” DiStefano said.
Rev. Alicia Rapking, director of the Upshur Parish House and Crosslines, Inc, said we need to help people thrive.
“I see people everyday who are hungry,” Rapking said. “They may have something to eat, but not the right kind of food available to them to thrive, anything we can do to help people to thrive is a good thing, especially when we are working together.