MOUNT GAY — Over $40,000 in food was given out for free to local citizens during a food giveaway event at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College on Friday, March 26.
The giveaway was a result of a partnership between SWVCTC and the USDA’s Farmers to Families food box program, which was created in April 2020 as part of a federal food assistance initiative after the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 1,200 boxes of food — each containing items like meat, milk, cheese, sour cream, onions, potatoes and apples — were distributed across the college’s campuses in Logan, Boone, Mingo and Wyoming counties.
SWVCTC President Dr. Pamela Alderman explained that employee Robert “Stacy” Dingess, who heads an organization based in Summersville called New Beginnings Resource Center, played a key role in making the event happen. Friday’s food giveaway was the seventh such event for Dingess, the previous of which were mostly held in areas like Richwood, Craigsville and Summersville — all of which are located in Nicholas County.
Dingess said the SWVCTC giveaway had the most traffic of any food giveaway event so far, and the first one to have an all-in-one location. He said the reason behind the overwhelming turnout is likely due to a lack of many active food pantries in the area.
“I think, just the area, and the fact that these kind of resources are not plentiful here,” Dingess said. “There’s not a lot of active food pantries here, and when something like this is available, everyone comes out for it.”
On the Logan campus of SWVCTC, the giveaway was held as a drive-up in the parking lot. As residents pulled up in their vehicles, volunteers working the event asked the driver how many were in the family, and then proceeded to load the food boxes in their vehicle, no questions asked and regardless of income.
The event got underway around 11:45 a.m. when the food truck carrying the boxes arrived and by 2 p.m., around 600 boxes were delivered on the Logan campus alone.
“It’s been going great,” Alderman said. “We have had so many volunteers and so many people coming through the lines. We’ve been able to meet the needs of everyone that has come here to the parking lot to get food.”
“It’s been a wonderful event, and it just does our heart so much good to see all of these people in this community come out and be so appreciative of what we have done,” said Rita Roberson, executive director of institutional advancement and marketing for SWVCTC.
Alderman said food insecurity is the number one need students cite when surveys are conducted. She said the college plans to host food distribution events like this one again in the future and open a food pantry on campus.
“With us being a community college, we don’t have housing, we do not have food services and those types of things, so if we can provide food for our individual students, but also for our community members, that’s what we want to do,” Alderman said.