For thirty years they’ve helped feed the needy in the Kanawha Valley and they’re doing it again this year.

United Food Operation kicked off its 2013 food distribution program Friday at one of the food pantries the organization supplies, the Mountain Mission in Charleston.

The UFO helped feed 30,000-plus people in 2012. The food and money collected was divided among 13 food pantries in Putnam and Kanawha counties.

One of those is Heart and Hand in South Charleston. Spokesperson Patty Tilly says the food the UFO provides to their pantry is essential, especially to many seniors who would otherwise have to choose between food and other necessities.

“To be able to hand them a box of food that they can take home with them with tears in their eyes as they express their gratefulness because now they can go buy that heart medication or their insulin for their diabetes,” Tilly said.

In the last week the organization has seen more than two dozen families and individuals in need.

“The pantry has helped 28 families in two days,” Tilly said. “That’s a lot of people going hungry.”

Elaine Harris, who chairs the UFO, says it takes a lot of people to make the program work. From now through March 23rd, the UFO will collect non-perishable items. Canned meat, vegetables, fruits and pasta are a staple of the deliveries they take to the food pantries.

The UFO will also conduct a fund drive to help them purchase food that will be delivered to the 13 pantries throughout the year. In fact, they’ll take whatever comes their way.

“If somebody comes with perishable [food], we’ll reach out to those pantries that have refrigeration,” Harris said. “We don’t turn down anything. We’ll find a home for it.”

Individuals or businesses who want to donate food or money can do so online at


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