At United Way of Southern West Virginia, we believe that health, education, and financial stability are the building blocks for a good quality of life. Our mission is to improve the lives of all residents of our service area by focusing on these building blocks and mobilizing the caring power of our community.
We believe that healthy children, families, and workplace participants lead to stronger and more resilient communities. Food insecurity is an issue that affects every community in the United States. Food insecurity is a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live a healthy, active life. For many, household budgets are so tight that one unexpected medical bill, or car maintenance, or an accident on the job can force a family to choose between buying food or paying bills.
The national average for childhood food insecurity is 15.2 percent. In West Virginia, the average is 20.3 percent. Within our coverage area in southern West Virginia, the average is 26.6 percent. That is one in four children in southern West Virginia living with food insecurity. Of the households experiencing food insecurity, 20 percent to 30 percent are ineligible for federal nutrition programs. Food pantries, after-school programs, and backpack programs attempt to fill the gap for many families.
Children who do not get enough to eat are more likely to be hospitalized and face higher risks of health conditions like anemia and asthma. Children facing hunger are more likely to repeat a grade in elementary school, have oral health problems, experience developmental impairments in language and motor skills, and have more social and behavioral problems. A reduced frequency, quality, and quantity of food may have a negative impact on children’s mental health. Food insecurity is linked with poorer physical quality of life, and food-insecure children are at risk of falling behind both academically and socially.
Food insecurity is complex. It is closely related to poverty, though not all people living below the poverty line experience food insecurity and people living above the poverty line can experience it as well. Families experiencing food insecurity may have overlapping issues like access to affordable housing, chronic health conditions, or low wages.
At United Way of Southern West Virginia, we address food insecurity by partnering with programs like food banks, after-school tutoring/meal distribution, backpack programs, and most recently by sponsoring a Blessing Box in Beckley for emergency food assistance. Also, because we offer our 2-1-1 Information and Referral Hotline, callers in need of information can be paired with the closest food sources to their area.
Contributing to United Way of Southern West Virginia helps us address food insecurity. During the pandemic, a greater need was seen at area food banks, and our partner agencies tackle that need with care and compassion for our community. Please consider living, giving, and leading UNITED by donating to United Way and supporting local food banks and food pantries. Donations can be made securely online at unitedwayswv.org, or by calling 304-253-2111, or by mailing a check to PO Box 5456, Beckley, WV 25801.