HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A concerned group in 1983 saw a growing trend. People in their community were going hungry, so they decided they would do something about it. The group formed an organization and created the Huntington Food Bank which served Wayne and Cabell counties.
“They launched in 1983 and served 52-thousand pounds worth of food,” said Erin Highlander, director of development. “Last year we served several million pounds and this year we’re up to close to three million pounds of food.”
The organization eventually grew into the Huntington Area Food Bank and expanded its service from two counties to 17. This month, the food bank celebrated its 30th anniversary. Highlander said there are 113,000 people in need of the service in their 17-county region. Unfortunately, she expects that need to grow in the months ahead as the federal food stamp program is slashed in Washington.
“We provide a service to people who are sometimes forgotten, but if they’re not forgotten people just don’t understand,” she said. “If you’ve never been hungry you just don’t understand the need.”
Highlander said the organization has received tremendous support over its 30-year history from a wide range of organizations and individuals in the Huntington community. It takes a lot to keep the operation going. They need food donations, monetary donations, and volunteer help.
“Even as little as two or three dollars every paycheck. For every dollar we get here we can turn into eight meals,” she said. “Two dollars a paycheck over the course of a year and you’re doing a lot of good work.”
Highlander said everybody thinks about hunger around the holidays, but it’s the difficult months in the summer when the need is at its greatest. People are at the beach and they forget donations are just as important then and maybe even more important.
“Kids aren’t in school and they don’t have breakfast and lunch,” she said.
Highlander said the operation appreciates any support anyone would like to offer.
“Everybody always asks, ‘What can I do?’ My response is always, ‘What are you good at?’” she explained. “I guarantee you we can find a way to use your skills to help the people we serve.”