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Rick Woods, who is a CSFP coordinator at Facing Hunger Food Bank, gathers food boxes packaged by city of Huntington volunteers at the food bank in Huntington on April 21.

CHARLESTON — Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates Food Insecurity Workgroup have seen their wish list fulfilled as Gov. Jim Justice announced the allocation of CARES Act money to many of the state’s needs last week.

“We are truly grateful Governor Justice has seen and heard the needs we have in West Virginia and made the decision to utilize our federal dollars to help reduce hunger throughout the state,” said Delegate Larry Pack, R-Kanawha. “We know the need is dire, and these investments will go a long way in helping those people and groups doing immensely important work to feed our state’s hungry.”

Pack and Delegate Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell, have led the bipartisan Food Insecurity Workgroup in the House of Delegates since House Speaker Roger Hanshaw announced the group’s formation in late June. Lovejoy led the formation of the House Hunger Caucus in 2019 and said both leaders deserve gratitude and praise.

“I want to thank both Governor Justice and Speaker Hanshaw for continuing to recognize what a problem we have throughout the state when it comes to food insecurity and for taking action with the tools they have available to help make a difference,” Lovejoy said. “We all remain committed to this issue and will continue looking for solutions to this monumental problem.”

Justice announced Thursday he will designate $7.25 million for food insecurity partners across the state, with $3 million of that going to food pantries and $2 million to Facing Hunger Food Bank and Mountaineer Food Bank.

Justice said additional dollars will go into upgrades at the West Virginia National Guard Rock Branch regional food distribution center, which will include a large-scale, combination cooler and freezer to allow for proper cold storage at the site. Justice also announced several Rescue Mission organizations each will receive $250,000.

Members of the Food Insecurity Workgroup conducted a series of virtual meetings and in-person visits throughout the summer to hear from both food banks about food availability and distribution as well as presentations from several state agencies that administer feeding programs. Other workgroup meetings included presentations by non-governmental organizations familiar with the state’s hunger issues, including the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, Turnrow Appalachian Farm Collective, Pantry Plus More, West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy and the WVU Food Justice Lab.

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