On January 9, United Food Operation, Inc. (UFO) began its 33rd season of supplying food to 12 community food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties of West Virginia.
UFO Chairwoman Elaine Harris announced the start of the group’s winter food drive at the kickoff event. This year’s food drive is dedicated in honor of Sylvia Mae Jones, who was formerly a receptionist at Bayer CropScience and a long-time supporter of UFO.
The meeting took place at Charleston’s Mountain Mission, which is one of the food pantries that benefits from the UFO program. Fund raising activity heated up fast as several donations were received from area work systems. Bayer Corp., ICL Group, and Dupont all stepped up to provide significant support for this year’s campaign.
United Food Operation depends on the caring and generosity of workers and companies around the Kanawha Valley to provide the funds needed to fight hunger in the region. UFO is an all volunteer operation, with no salaries, and operates out of donated warehouse space at Institute, WV.
Because UFO operates with almost no overhead, all the funds it raises in the annual food drive can go toward purchasing food, which it then supplies to the community food pantries free of charge.
Each Saturday from January through March, food pantry vehicles arrive at the UFO warehouse located in the Institute Industrial Park, to pick up a free load of packaged foods. This food is a big help to the pantries that are often strapped to meet the large need they find in their communities.
United Food Operation receives support from a variety of employers and individuals around Kanawha and Putnam counties. Elaine Harris emphasized that more support is needed this season in order for the group to meets its goals. Business or individuals wishing to help can contact Harris at 304-342-2023.
Many ideas were contributed as United Food Operation, Inc. (UFO) held its organization meeting for the 2015 winter food distribution season. With the treasurer’s report showing the group will begin the 2015 program season with about $8,000 less than last year, much of the discussion centered on fundraising.
“We understand money is tight, but still there are those who need our help,” said Elaine Harris, UFO chairperson as she expressed the group’s commitment to find more resources.
The organization will conduct its 33rd annual food distribution program from January 9 to March 28, 2015. The program helps 12 local food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties get through the tough winter months.
It was determined that UFO needs to raise an additional $36,000 between now and the end of March if it is to maintain the same level of support it provided food pantries last year.
Each year, United Food Operation program provides additional food to the pantries during a 12-week winter-to-spring period — a time during which many families struggle with high heating bills that cut into their food budgets. UFO provides this support to the pantries at no cost to them.
The 2015 program will again operate out of space donated by Bayer CropScience at the Institute Industrial Park.
“We really appreciate Bayer’s providing us warehouse distribution space for the upcoming year,” Harris said. “They have been so generous through the years. I don’t know where we’d be without them.”
The 2015 distribution center will be located next door to the building that has been used the past several years. The former distribution center building is scheduled for demolition as the industrial park continues to experience changes and redevelopment.
Food pantry representatives at the meeting included those from Five Loaves–Two Fish, Poca; Nitro Community Services; EnAct, Inc, which operates in Clendenin, Montgomery and Chesapeake; Christian Community Cupboard, Hurricane; Covenant House, Charleston; Mountain Mission, Charleston; Sissonville Community Food Pantry; The Salvation Army, Charleston; and St. Albans Community Food Pantry. Representatives from Heart and Hand of South Charleston were unable to attend the meeting but will also participate again this winter.
United Food Operation, Inc. is a total volunteer operation with no paid staff and operates out of donated warehouse and office space. All donations it receives from the public go to purchase food.
Around the region, the annual Letter Carriers food drive on May 10 netted over 50,000 pounds of donated food that will be distributed to West Virginia food pantries.
At the main post office in Charleston dozens of United Food Operation, Inc. (UFO) volunteers turned out to unload food from postal trucks and move it to the waiting UFO tractor trailer. A rainy day did not dampen the spirits of the volunteers nor of the members of the National Association Letter Carriers (NALC) Local 531, as approximately 21,000 pounds of food donated by postal patrons was received and reloaded at this site.
It takes a lot of volunteers to pull off a day like this and Charleston area organizations were very generous. Those offering volunteers included the Communication Workers of America, Local 2001; American Federation of Teachers, Putnam County Local 4639; Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club, Charleston Chapter; National Association of Letter Carriers, Local 531; Charleston Professional Fire Fighters, IAFF Local 317; Heart and Hand of South Charleston; International Association of Machinists, Local 656; International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 175; International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 132; United Food Operation, Inc.; WV AFL-CIO; and the WV Governor’s Office.
With the day having been proclaimed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin as Letter Carriers Food Drive Day, the large haul of donated food will be spread among pantries around south central and western West Virginia. The 21,000 pounds of food given to United Food Operation will be shared with the 13 pantries it supports in Kanawha and Putnam counties. This food will be an immediate help to those in need in the Kanawha Valley.
** Click on the photos to view enlargements of our volunteers **
Details of the day
Postal delivery trucks arrive at the post office at the end of their day bringing back the donated food they have collected from postal patrons.
The donated food is loaded into large dump bins by United Food Operation volunteers.
Once these dump bins are filled they are moved over to the weighing area.
Each bin is placed on the scale and weighed.
Full bins typically weigh in the area of 800-900 pounds.
Bins are then loaded into the UFO trailer and hauled to the UFO warehouse in Institute.
This tractor and trailer was provided, at no cost to United Food Operation, by Yellow Freight. This is the kind of contribution that allows UFO to put all the funds it raises toward buying food. We thank Yellow Freight and all the others who made this successful day possible.
UFO will now distribute all the food donated from the Letter Carriers drive to its participating local food pantries . With the completion of this project, 2014 UFO distributions season will come to a close. Over the summer and fall months UFO will raise the funds needed to kick off its Winter 2015 program, which begins in January.
For its contribution to fighting hunger in the Kanawha Valley, Charleston radio station WQBE-FM was honored by United Food Operation on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014.
Elaine Harris, chair of U.F.O., presented a plaque to WQBE radio personalities Jeff Jeffries and Al Woody for their long term commitment to and support of the United Food Operation that puts food on the shelves of 13 food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties.
Harris thanked Jeffries and Woody for all they do, and it is a lot. Jeffries and Woody routinely encourage public support for food charities in their regular broadcasts and, for the past three years, have provided a live remote broadcast for United Food Operation events. Their efforts have assisted U.F.O. in raising thousands of dollars used to purchase food that is then provided free-of-charge to 13 food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties of West Virginia.
WQBE is a community-spirited station owned and operated by Bristol Broadcasting Company, Inc. It broadcasts its country music format at 97.5 on the FM dial.
Winter weather has hit the Kanawha Valley with a vengeance, which means it surely must be time again for United Food Operation (UFO) to get down to business. Accordingly, the Charleston-based all-volunteer organization will kick off its 32nd annual food distribution program on January 24 and run it through April 12 this year.
Elaine Harris, who has served as the program chair since its inception in 1981, said UFO will work out of the same distribution center at the Bayer Crop Science facility in Institute that it has been using for several years.
“Donations are down,” she said. “Cupboards are bare. We need sponsors to help bring in food. It’s tax-deductible.”
Numerous area employers support the program but more are needed, Harris said. She explained that, unlike many other food banks, UFO does not charge the pantries for the food it provides them.
“They have enough issues finding the resources to keep operating,” she said. “We just want to help them get over the winter hump.”
Pantry leaders say they are hard pressed in the cold weather season to keep up with the increased demand for their services. Demand is higher in winter months for a number of reasons but the primary one is higher utility bills for heating leave less in the famlly budget for food.
At the Institute distribution center, UFO volunteers will collect, receive, and sort food on Fridays and distribute it to pantries on Saturday mornings during the 10-week period. Thirteen food pantries in Putnam and Kanawha counties participate in the UFO program.
Participating food pantries for 2014 are:
Christian Community Cupboard in Hurricane; EnAct, Inc. in Chesapeake, Montgomery, and Clendenin; Covenant House of Charleston; Heart and Hand Community Service Center in South Charleston; Nitro Community Services; Pocatalico/Sissonville Community Food Pantry; St. Albans Community Food Pantry; Mountain Mission in Charleston; Salvation Army in Charleston; and Five Loaves/Two Fishes in Poca.
A teleconference call with UFO officers and volunteer leaders will be held Wednesday, January 15, 2014 8:00 AM to discuss plans for the UFO kick off and subsequent pantry distributions for this year.
For more information about how you might help or get involved as a volunteer, call Elaine Harris at 304-342-2023.
The E.I. Dupont plant at Belle and the Dow facility at Institute Industrial Park have both committed support to United Food Operation’s (UFO) 2013 winter food distribution program.
Dupont employee Pamela Valentine, who also serves as secretary for United Food Operation, presented a check for $1,250 to the group at the 2013 campaign organization meeting on Nov. 29, 2012. Employees at the Dupont plant have been long-term supporters of the UFO effort.
Dow’s Institute facility will supply the truck and driver needed to pick up bulk pallets of food and deliver them to the distribution center each Thursday. This will be done weekly for the duration of the 2013 food distribution program.
The bulk pallets are broken down on Fridays by UFO volunteers and reorganized into pallets for each of the 13 participating food pantries. The pantries then pick up the food on Saturday mornings.
UFO Chair Elaine Harris said the organization couldn’t be nearly as effective without the continuing support of workers and management at local facilities like Dupont and Dow.
United Food Operation is preparing for its 30th annual winter food distribution program, which will run from January 13 to March 31, 2012.
During this 10-week period United Food Operation will make weekly food distributions to 13 area food pantries in support of their missions to assist needy local families and individuals. The pantries are located across Kanawha and Putnam counties of West Virginia.
Support for United Food Operation comes primarily from voluntary contributions by employees at Charleston, WV-area plants, public utilities, and government facilities. It was originally organized by and continues to receive strong support from local union members in the region.
The group’s board of trustees met with representatives of the participating food pantries on November 17. They announced that the warehouse distribution center would again be supplied free of charge by Bayer Crop Science at the Institute Industrial Park in Institute, WV. Distribution will take place each Saturday morning during the program period.