PIKEVILLE – Officials in Eastern Kentucky met with Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles and leaders of God’s Pantry Food Bank at the University of Pikeville to discuss the needs and challenges facing Eastern Kentucky families as well as local area food banks on Wednesday.
With the economy decline and the loss of most mining jobs, many area families are finding themselves asking for assistance with food to feed their children. Local food banks often run out of food before meeting the needs of all the families in their service areas.
Officials met to determine what is being done locally to meet the increased needs and what else can be done to bridge the gap.
Floyd County has several area food banks such as the Mud Creek Food Bank; Heaven’s Harvest in Wayland, Gap (God’s Appalachian Partnership) of McDowell. Area churches are pitching in to help with the growing demand as well. First Baptist Church of Prestonsburg and St. James Episcopal Church both operate food pantries with the help of church member volunteers. St. James Episcopal Church also operates a soup kitchen that is open every Tuesday.
“It is a very humbling experience to look in the cabinet and refrigerator and see you don’t have enough food to feed your children,” said Tonya Goble, of Eastern. “One problem is the lack of jobs in the area and the ones that are available don’t pay enough to allow someone to work, pay bills, buy gas, pay for childcare, plus buy food. I know families that only make $50 over the income limit to qualify for SNAP benefits and those are the families suffering.”
God’s Pantry Food Bank distributed close to three million pounds of food locally during the 2016 fiscal year and the need was not met.
“It was a great experience to talk and listen to local government officials and advocates come together to discuss possible ways to meet the increasing need for food assistance,” said Ame Sweetall, Interim CEO of God’s Pantry Food Bank. “One person can’t do it alone. However, one person can make a difference.”
Andrea Saddler is a reporter for The Floyd County Times. She can be reached at (606) 886-8506.