By Sam Kepple
Based out of Huntington, W.Va., Facing Hunger Foodbank is a regional nonprofit organization working to combat food insecurity in Appalachia.
Facing Hunger’s endeavors include mobile food pantries, which visit areas known as “food deserts,” meaning the area provides little to no opportunity for residents to access healthy and diverse foods. A variety of products are offered through the pantry, including produce, dried goods, entree meals and bread. Facing Hunger brings between 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of food into a community with each mobile pantry, according to Executive Director Cyndi Kirkhart.
The organization also assists 4,100 children in need each week through programs such as free and reduced school meals and the Backpack Program, which provides food for students to take home in the times during the week that they are not at school. Programs for senior citizens are offered as well, such as a service that delivers food to their homes.
In the five years that Kirkhart has served as executive director, she describes an improvement in the nutritional quality of the food Facing Hunger supplies. The organization works with large businesses, such as Walmart and Kroger, to acquire healthier foods.
“We’ve increased the amount of produce we distribute, versus what has typically been available through the retail donation program,” Kirkhart says. “We’ve been working with those retailers to increase the amount of produce and healthier foods.”
One of Facing Hunger’s biggest challenges is providing service to a growing number of financially insecure people in their service area who end up needing services the organization provides, according to Kirkhart.
The group is an affiliate of the national hunger-relief charity Feeding America. Facing Hunger receives some federal funding from the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, and also distributes U.S. Department of Agriculture commodities in West Virginia and Kentucky. Donations from individuals, food drives, universities and businesses are crucial for keeping Facing Hunger’s supply stocked.
Learn more at facinghunger.org.