January 19, 2012

Manchin visit marks opening of LCHS pantry | The Lincoln Journal

HAMLIN - A school-based food pantry, the first in the state sponsored by Feeding America, opened at Lincoln County High School last week. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) was the keynote speaker at the ceremony marking the opening, which included a brief tour of the high school and a visit to the pantry itself.

The purpose of the pantry is to provide a resource to high school students at risk of hunger.

According to a study conducted by Feeding America, 85,000 Children in West Virginia were at risk of food insecurity in 2009. Of those, only 67 percent qualified for federal and state nutrition programs. In Lincoln County, 29.5 percent of the county’s children were at risk.

Manchin arrived at the high school just before 2 p.m., Monday, January 9, 2012. He was welcomed to the school by Principal Ryan Saxe. Students from the JROTC program guided traffic through the campus to parking spaces. A further group of cadets welcomed guests near the main entrance to the school.

Among those attending the launch were West Virginia State Senator Ron Stollings (D-Boone), who represents Lincoln County in the West Virginia Legislature. Also greeting Manchin were Delegates Greg Butcher (D-Logan) and Rupie Phillips (D-Logan), both of whom currently represent Lincoln County in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Butcher is a candidate for magistrate in Lincoln County this election cycle. Phillips told The Lincoln Journal that he is pursuing a run for a seat in the new 24th Delegate District. Also in attendance were Lincoln County Board of Education Vice President Fred Curry, Superintendent Patricia Lucas, Assistant Superintendent Jeff Midkiff and Lincoln County Chief Circuit Judge Jay Hoke.

During the tour, Manchin met with students from the school’s ProStart Culinary Arts Restaurant Management Program. He also sampled some of the fare offered by the group, including pizza. Speaking to the students, Manchin spoke about the possibility of offering menus to show what can be made by those on certain income levels. The senator was also shown a project display regarding the canned food project undertaken at the school recently. Student Body President Rachel Elkins spoke to the senator regarding the house that was built using donated canned foods.

At the pantry storeroom itself, Social Worker Kerri Smith told Manchin that she asks the students exactly what they need. The students then enter the storeroom and pick up what they require from the pantry.

Later, in the school’s auditorium, Saxe spoke of the historic nature of the event. He reminded those present that teachers never know what a student has experienced at home before entering the school each day. The principal also mentioned the county’s participation in the Universal Meal Program, which began at the start of the current school year. He added that it is unacceptable to have children going home and going hungry.

JROTC student Destany Bailey led the Pledge of Allegiance and was joined on stage by FFA President Crystal Cummings.

Huntington Area Food Bank Director of Development Scott Frasure noted that, last month, the food bank was able to establish a backpack program thanks to a $30,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation State Giving Program. The initiative seeks to help feed children during times when they are not in school. “That program will assist children in grades K-8. We also wanted to do something to help high school kids, said Frasure referring to the LCHS pantry. Huntington Area Food Bank Executive Director Leigh Anne Zappin said, “High school kids are oftentimes the forgotten group, so we wanted to reach out to help them, also. With a great willingness to support us in that endeavor, Lincoln County High School was eager to get started.”

The Huntington Area Food Bank (HAFB) is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization affiliated with Feeding America, the largest hunger relief agency in the United States. The bank services 270 agencies in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, with the pantry at LCHS being the latest addition.

HAFB receives products from Feeding America, USDA, local donors, regional grocers, restaurants, farmers, food manufacturers and food processors. The perishable and non-perishable items are distributed free or at a discounted price, which assists in covering the bank’s maintenance and transportation expenses.

During his remarks, Manchin said that everyone is a product of their own environment. He also remarked on the lack of boundaries and limits in the United States. However, he reminded the students that no matter how bad they might feel about their own circumstances, those in other parts of the world experience far worse situations.

The senator urged students to seek assistance when needed. “If any of you need a little bit of assistance, this is the place. Or if you know a friend who needs help fixing a meal or finding something to fix a meal,” said Manchin. “I hope that this venture we have here, the compassion you have in this community, the outreach you have here, that it spreads.”

A check for the $30,000 grant was later presented to the program.

By:  Sean O'Donoghue