All posts by Charles Bockway

UFO sets 2024 winter food distributions

United Food Operation (UFO) will begin its 2024 food distribution program this winter on Friday, January 12. The group is currently seeking financial support from businesses and individuals in Kanawha and Putnam counties to help underwrite the cost of the distributions.

The January 12 kick off event will be held at the UFO distribution center in the Institute Industrial Park. The food distribution program will continue for 12 weeks or until the funds run out, which ever comes first.

Last week, area food pantry representatives at the group’s annual organizational meeting noted that demand for food increased sharply this year due to decreased federal family food benefits, one which had been in place to help out during the COVID pandemic.

UFO’s leader, Elaine Harris, said the organization is committed to raising additional funds to support the increased need for food in the community. UFO board of directors members Matt Harris, of COVESTRO, and Joseph Davenport, of West Virginia State University, are leading the outreach to area business and industry seeking support for UFO’s 2024 food distribution programs.

Businesses may make direct donations, sponsor a fundraising activity, or may sponsor an entire week of food distributions. Persons interested in exploring a fundraising activity or to obtain more information on food insecurity in the region should contact Elaine Harris at (304) 342-2023.

UFO distributes food for families and individuals in Kanawha and Putnam counties of West Virginia through 12 participating community food pantries. UFO is all-volunteer based and operates from warehouse space donated by Altivia at Institute, WV. Last week’s UFO-2024 organization meeting was hosted by COVESTRO South Charleston.

A recently updated listing of UFO participating food pantries can be found on the UFO website at this link:

Since 1992, United Food Operation has distributed food to the needy each winter. UFO never charges the food pantries for any of the food it provides them. UFO is a cooperative charitable program led by organized labor and industries in the Charleston region of the Kanawha Valley.

UFO distributes 6 tons of food collected in NALC drive

Eight o’clock Tuesday morning came and food pantry trucks began lining up at the United Food Operation, Inc. (UFO) warehouse in Institute, WV.

By 9:00 A.M. most all the food had been loaded into pantry vehicles and sent off help needy families in the region.

Food pantries across Kanawha and Putnam counties were excited to receive the bounty from the local Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, conducted last Saturday by National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 531 (NALC) along with the United States Postal Service

This year’s bounty from the food drive weighed in at 12,000 pounds—or 6 tons—of non-perishable foods, which will be put to use serving families across Putnam and Kanawha counties.

Some of the over 6 tons of foods donated to the Stamp Out Hunger food drive. Stored at the UFO warehouse.

“We’re so thankful for the generosity of all the people who donated food to the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive,” said UFO Chair Elaine Harris, “And we’re also thankful for all the letter carriers and volunteers who helped in this fantastic effort.

“The Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is such a beautiful thing. It works so well. I tip my hat to the NALC and to everybody who makes it possible.”

NALC Branch 531 food drive leader R.D. Henson meets with UFO’s Harris to plan for food distribution.

UFO works with 12 independent food panties that distribute the foods in their service areas. UFO is an all-volunteer organization, established over 40 years ago, to raise funds and collect donated food to help families and individuals with food security in Kanawha and Putnam counties. List of food pantries working with UFO

WV National Guard helps out

Harris also passed along her appreciation for the West Virginia National Guard and its members who helped on Saturday loading and trucking food from outlying post offices to the Main Charleston Post Office, where it was consolidated for shipping to UFO’s warehouse.

We love out food pantry people

Click on photo to enlarge

Food pours in from Letter Carriers drive

On May 13, tons of non-perishable foods were collected during the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive in the Charleston, WV region. United Food Operation (UFO) leaders called it a success for which they are thankful.

Saturday’s receipts were many tons of donated food.

The generous donations from postal patrons across the Kanawha Valley area will be put to use quickly in supplying food pantries across Kanawha and Putnam counties. The Stamp Out Hunger food drive has annually been an important boost to food charities in our region.

NALC makes important donation

United Food Operation, Inc. is happy to partner again with the NALC in sorting and distributing the donated food, which will be sent out to area food pantries on Tuesday. Twelve geographically-distributed independent food pantries in the Kanawha Valley will receive the foods at no cost.

NALC members present checks for $4,000 to help fight hunger in the Charleston WV region.
Local NALC leaders present two $2,000 donations to UFO to assist in the fight against hunger in the Kanawha Valley.

To further assist Charleston area food security efforts this year, the National Association of Letter Carriers national office matched a $2,000 donation by NALC Branch 531. The $4,000 total will be used by United Food Operation to purchase additional food to distribute to food pantries.

Stamp Out Hunger involves lots of folks

On Stamp Out Hunger Day, residents around the region set out donations of non-perishable foods next to their mail boxes. The food is then collected by their USPS letter carriers as they deliver mail. The letter carriers take the food to central post office facilities at the end of their routes.

With the assistance of volunteers from the West Virginia National Guard, the food is taken from outlying post offices to the main post office in downtown Charleston. The food is consolidated into large bins, which at the end of the day are delivered to United Food Operation’s warehouse in Institute, WV.

Forklift driver services donated by ACS Chemical, Institute WV

Working at the Charleston Main Post Office on Saturday were NALC members along with UFO leaders, and volunteers from local charities. NALC Local 531 provided pizza and soft drinks to volunteers helping aggregate the foods on Saturday. That gesture was greatly appreciated.

United Food Operation helping since 1981

United Food Operation, Inc. is an all-volunteer food bank serving 12 food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties. UFO is funded with donated monies from area businesses, AFL-CIO affiliated union members and other workers and citizens of the Kanawha Valley area, along with small grants and contracts from government agencies.

UFO operates from donated warehouse space provided by Altivia Chemical at the Institute Industrial Park, and utilizes donated equipment from MH Rents. Together these things keep operational costs at a bare minimum and allow food purchases to be maximized.


Click on photo to enlarge

UFO gears up for 2023 Letter Carriers food drive

United Food Operation of West Virginia (UFO) has begun preparations for the National Association of Letter Carriers “Stamp Out Hunger” Food Drive, which occurs on Saturday, May 13.

UFO and the Letter Carriers are asking postal patrons in the Charleston WV region to fill a grocery bag with non-perishable foods and place it next to their mailbox that morning.

Letter carriers will collect the food as they deliver mail that day. United States Postal Service workers will then deliver the food to central post office facilities, where is is consolidated and then trucked to the United Food Operation warehouse in Institute, WV. Once at the UFO warehouse, the foods are sorted and organized into allotments for participating food pantries.

On Tuesday, May 16, trucks from UFO-affiliated food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties will pick up the food and take it to their locations, where it is added to the stocks of food available to families in the communities they serve.

Volunteers needed May 13

Volunteers unloading donated food at a past NALC food drive in Charleston, WV

On Saturday, May 13, volunteers are needed between the hours of 2:30 and 6:30 P.M. at the Main Post Office building in downtown Charleston. The volunteers assist with unloading food from the postal vehicles and consolidating it onto trailers so it can be hauled to the UFO warehouse. Food and soft drinks will be provided to volunteers helping at the at the main Post Office loading dock.

To get details about volunteering, please call 304-342-2023 or email UFO and say you would like to assist the Letter Carriers Food Drive. Any questions you have can be answered on the telephone. Alternatively, you can just show up on the afternoon of May 13 at the downtown Charleston post office loading dock off Washington Street, and the organizers will put you to work.

Food pantries meet with UFO

Representatives from UFO-affiliated food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties met recently with UFO officials to organize for the upcoming Letter Carriers food drive. The meeting, held at the Covestro conference room in South Charleston, was designed to help everyone prepare for the receipt of food from the collection. The Letter Carriers food drive here is among the most significant single-day events of its type in the state.

Since 1981, UFO has worked to provide food to needy families in the Kanawha Valley region. Anyone wishing to donate to money to the all-volunteer United Food Operation efforts may send a check of any amount to P.O. Box 20441, Charleston, WV 25362. Donations go to purchase food that is distributed to participating food pantries. United Food Operation, Inc. is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

Twelve Weeks of 2022 Food Distributions Begin

Elaine Harris addresses volunteers and community leaders at the UFO kickoff.

The 40th year of food distribution began today at the United Food Operation, Inc. (UFO) warehouse in Institute, WV. Six food pantries from Kanawha and Putnam Counties loaded up today with a variety of staple foods at no cost to them. Four more pantries will pick up food Saturday. These are foods that will help serve hundreds of needy families in areas of Kanawha and Putnam counties.

UFO chairperson Elaine Harris said she is so happy to open up the warehouse this year, after it took a COVID year off in 2021. She observed that with the federal pandemic relief payments to families and individuals now completed, local food pantries will likely be seeing a rise in the need for food this winter. Higher heating bills are also expected to put a strain on family budgets.

Harris singled out the program’s landlord, Altivia corporation, for a special thank you for its continuation of the lease for the warehouse space at $1 per year. She said having a regular warehouse space means so much to the program, which in some past years past had to scramble to obtain space to work out of. Finding donated space is also extremely important to the all-volunteer organization so it can continue spending the dollar donations it receives on food.

Others receiving special thanks this winter included MH Equipment of Cross Lanes for donating use of a fork lift.

UFO is tickled to death to have use of this Hyster 50, provided by MH Equipment.

UFO never charges food panties for the food they receive. Over its 40 year history, the program has given local food pantries hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of foods at no cost.

Beyond private donations from employers, union members, and individuals, UFO receives some funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Harris said the FEMA dollars were especially helpful over the past two years when it was difficult to conduct private fundraising drives due to the pandemic. She also lauded the help of Charleston’s Mountain Mission for the assistance it provided last year to UFO food distributions. We couldn’t have done it without them, she said.

Poca WV Mayor William Jones helps fill the truck going to his town’s Five Loaves Two Fish food pantry.


Every Thursday a truckload of food, which has beer ordered earlier in the week, is picked up from Bigley Piggly Wiggly in Charleston and delivered to the UFO warehouse. A crew and truck provided by the Greenwood company of Institute/S. Charleston handle this chore at no charge to UFO. Their donation of this service is very appreciated.

Foods sorted and loaded onto pallets.

Every Friday morning, volunteers sort this food, plus any other that has been donated, and organize it into pallet loads for each participating food pantry.

Every Saturday morning, food pantries pick up their food at the warehouse.

A load of food for Christ’s Kitchen Food Pantry in St. Albans

Food and $ donations sought

UFO is seeking donations to support the winter food distributions. Donations can be made by check through the mail or by credit card on the program website at The more funding it receives, the more food it can purchase for the pantries.

Businesses, organizations, churches, and community groups are encouraged to consider conducting a food and/or fund drive for UFO this winter. Contact Elaine Harris at 304-342-2023 for more information. The 2022 winter program runs through the first week of April.

South Charleston’s Heart & Hand Outreach Ministries receives it load of food.

2022 program kicks off Friday

The 2022 United Food Operation, Inc. (UFO) food drive will officially begin on Friday, January 14, announced Elaine Harris, program chairperson.

“UFO will be marking its 40th year of collecting and distributing food to the participating food pantries,” said Harris. “You are invited to attend the kick off at our UFO warehouse.”

The activities start at 11:00 A.M. with a short program. Representatives of participating food pantries will be in attendance along with invited elected officials from communities in Kanawha and Putnam counties.

The UFO warehouse is located in Institute at the east end of the Altiva Institute Industrial Park. The entrance is directly across Route 25 (Fairlawn Av.) from the Institute Post Office.

On Saturday, following the kickoff, food will begin being distributed to participating food pantries. This activity will continue each Saturday through April 9.

UFO is an independent, all volunteer-staffed, private nonprofit food bank serving Kanawha and Putnam counties

Help UFO on Giving Tuesday

On November 30th, 2021, United Food Operation is participating in GivingTuesday to bring attention to the great need we have for food in the Kanawha Valley.

Local news reports say Winter 2022 heating bills are set to jump as inflation hits home. Both natural gas and electric utilities in the Kanawha Valley have had rate increases over the past year. These higher utility costs could substantially drive up home heating costs.

Higher home heating costs hit middle income families hard, but affect lower income households the most, relative to their ability to pay. This is where United Food Operation’s food distribution program helps. Providing extra food to needy families this winter, frees up more funds to pay the utility bills.

Please Donate

You can help United Food Operation with its mission by making a donation on GivingTuesday, which is November 30, 2021. Use UFO’s secure online donation platform operated by MightyCause to help bring some relief to families in need in Kanawha and Putnam counties.

Check out our Donations page to see all the ways you can help.

About GivingTuesday

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of radical generosity. GivingTuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Since then, it has grown into a year-round global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

Join the movement and give – each Tuesday and every day – whether it’s some of your time, a donation, or the power of your voice in your local community.

It’s a simple idea:  whether it’s making someone smile, helping a neighbor or stranger out, showing up for an issue or people we care about, or giving some of what we have to those who need our help, every act of generosity counts and everyone has something to give.

FundRaising continues

Because the need for food never seems to lessen in our community, United Food Operation continues to collect monetary donations during the off year time before it does its annual wintertime food distributions to Kanawha–Putnam County-area food pantries. The 2022 food distribution program is expected to begin in early January 2022.

UFO supports 12 food pantries in the region each year from January to April — the months when the need for resources is highest. By providing extra food during the winter, more resources are freed to assist with other needs, especially for helping pay home heating bills (gas/electric).

Donations needed

If you can make a small or large donation to help with food security in the Kanawha Valley, please do so now. For more information, call Elaine Harris at 304-342-2023.

Donate by check: mail to United Food Operation, PO Box 20441, Charleston, WV 25362

Donate by credit card: use MightyCause

We use the MightyCause donation service because of its ease of use and low cost. It is a great service. You can use MightyCause to securely make a donation to United Food Operation with your Visa, Mastercard, or American Express card.

Donate through United Way: You can designate United Food Operation to receive part or all of your annual United Way contribution. You must write in “United Food Operation Inc, Charleston WV” when you fill out your annual United Way campaign commitment form.

Thank you for your support

2020 winter food distribution begins

Supporters help kick off the annual United Food Operation program for 2020.

United Food Operation (UFO) kicked off its 2020 winter food drive and distribution program on Friday. The food distribution will continue through March 28.

A nice turnout of supporters showed up to see this year’s program dedicated in the honor of some key folks, without whom the program would be so much less successful.

Fred Clark, owner of IVS Hydro, was recognized for his contribution to UFO by Elaine Harris.

The individual honored this year is very familiar to food charities around the Kanawha Valley. UFO Chair Elaine Harris said Fred Clark has been so important to the program since he’s been on the Board of Directors. She said Fred works tirelessly, not only to help raise funds for UFO, but he also helps out with other food drives around the community. Fred’s nickname is “The Potato Man” due to his purchase of truckloads of potatoes that he donates to food pantries.

Communications Workers of America, Local 2001, was recognized for its outstanding work on behalf of UFO. Local 2001 Secretary Treasurer Robin Young, center, and VP Susan Adkins, right, accepted the honor on behalf of the CWA Local 2001 membership..

The organization honored this year was Communications Workers of America, Local 2001. Harris recognized Local 2001 for their annual food drives, which they do for UFO. Harris said that in a couple of recent years, when UFO funds ran short at the end of the winter, Local 2001 has come through with loads of food and funds that they raise from their workplaces. It has been a real nice shot in the arm for UFO and the 12 food pantries it serves.

Marissa Skaff, Huntington National Bank WV Region assistant vice president, presents a donation from the bank to UFO Chair Elaine Harris. Chad Prather, president of the WV Region, Huntington National Bank, and Skaff are strong supporters of groups fighting hunger in our region.

An nice donation of $2,500 was received from Huntington National Bank. Two other significant donations of in-kind services were announced at the kick-off. MH Rents donated the use of a forklift vehicle for the food drive season and SGS Petroleum Services is sending a certified forklift operator over each Friday and Saturday mornings to assist with moving pallets of food around the warehouse.

Todd Gunter, field representative for U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, reads a message of support from the senator to United Food Operation..

Messages of support were read from United States Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin. Representatives from food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties, West Virginia State University, WV AFL-CIO, local businesses, and mayors from several cities served by UFO affiliated food pantries were on hand to show their support for the program.

As they have done many times before, WQBE-97.5 conducted a live remote from the event led by announcer Jeff Jeffries.

UFO regulars gather prior to the event.
Kick-off day 2020 was a warm one this year.
All the food along this wall was donated through Dutch Miller of Charleston.
Fred Clark is interviewed by a WOWK 13 News reported.

Let’s do plenty in 2020

Winter Food Drive Kickoff set for Friday

United Food Operation (UFO) will begin its 38th year of annual wintertime food distributions this Friday, January 10 at 11:00 a.m. The kickoff ceremony takes place at UFO food distribution center in Institute, WV.

UFO Chair Elaine Harris said that Friday’s program will honor one local individual and one local organization for their outstanding support of the organization’s mission through the years. The public is invited to attend the program, which runs for approximately one hour.

UFO annually raises funds with which it purchases food that is distributed free of charge to 12 independent food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties. UFO accepts both donations of money and non-perishable foods.

Founded in 1981, United Food Operation has been fighting hunger in the Kanawha Valley with support from working men and women in local industries and government agencies and from many corporations with local operations. Each year, the program distributes food to pantries for a 12-week period in the winter and early spring, which are times of heightened need.

UFO is a totally volunteer-run nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that operates out of donated warehouse space with donated equipment. Its extremely low overhead allows virtually all of the funds it raises to go to the purchase of food.

Donations can be mailed to:

United Food Operation
P. O. Box 20441
Charleston, WV 25362

A look back at the 2019 Kickoff

Last year’s kickoff was highlighted with inspiring words from our keynote speaker United States Senator Joe Manchin. We were pleased to have a big turnout of representatives of local businesses and labor organizations.

Enjoy some photos from last year’s kickoff program.

Senator Joe Manchin addresses the United Food Operation 2019 program kickoff
The 2019 UFO annual program was dedicated in memory of Al Woody.