It’s late spring and the weather is getting nice. Spirits are up. Flowers are blooming. Plenty of outdoor activities draw your attention. It’s easy to forget that your local food pantry still needs your help.
That’s the beauty of the Stamp Out Hunger food drive conducted by the National Association of Letter Carriers and the United States Postal Service. It’s a poignant reminder at just the right time. This year’s food drive took place on May 13.
The need for food from our pantries has been pretty much at an all time high over the past winter months. The large-scale food resources that supply pantries are not really keeping up with the increased need we’ve seen.
The supply of food from large governmental food banks and national charitable organizations, while important, does not come close to meeting the true need of food pantries in our community. Local pantries depend on the generosity of the local community — of local folks who donate their dollars and canned goods all year around. Without the little people who bring over a few cans of tuna or few dollars they made at a bake sale, many local food pantries would close and many others would barely get by.
Letter Carriers give visibility to need for food
The Letter Carriers annual food drive brings home this point maybe better than any other large event. It communicates the need and says every little bit helps. Every little bit is important. The Letter Carriers reach out to all sectors of the community — urban, suburban and rural areas — to everyone who gets mail. No other food drive has this kind of reach.
And from the efforts of Letter Carriers and their allies, thousands of pounds of food are donated, collected, and then distributed to local food pantries where it is put to use serving the needy in our community. This donated food is a godsend, just ask anyone associated with one of our local food pantries.
UFO thanks our local Letter Carriers
United Food Operation want to sincerely thank members of Local 531 of the National Association of Letter Carriers for another great food drive. Letter Carrier R.D. Henson did a great job in his first year coordinating the program. Thanks also go out to all the other groups that cosponsored or otherwise helped out this wonderful effort.
The National Association of Letter Carriers food drive takes place in the Charleston region this Saturday, May 13. Please don’t forget to fill a bag with food and set it out near your mailbox on Saturday morning.
Arriving in mail boxes all around the region today and tomorrow are brown paper grocery bags designed to be filled with healthy,non-perishable foods and left by your mailbox Saturday morning. Your letter carrier will pick up the bag of food as he or she delivers your mail.
Mine Workers donate grocery bags
Again this year the United Mine Workers of America have donated thousands of brown paper grocery bags. That is a great help to the food drive because past experience has shown that more folks donate food when they have a special bag to put it in. The bags also serve as a reminder to not forget to do it.
United Food Operation manages foods distribution
All the donated food will be delivered back to the central post office by day’s end, where it is loaded into bins and then trucked to the United Food Operation warehouse in Institute. Over the next several days, the food is sorted and made ready for pick up by 12 local food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties.
Members of Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 2001 donated around 25,000 pounds of food during the final five weeks of the United Food Operation (UFO) winter food distribution program. This massive influx of food allowed the program to end its seasonal distribution on a positive note.
UFO had feared that it would not get through its 12-week food distribution season this year without severe cutbacks in food quantity toward the end. The CWA donations kept that from happening.
UFO chairperson Elaine Harris lauded the efforts of the CWA members.
“It made a huge difference.,” Harris said.
The CWA members, who are employed by Frontier Communications in the Charleston WV area, performed all kinds of fundraising strategies on and off the workplace. Then, they vigorously shopped sales at area grocery chains to stretch every dollar to its maximum and also to obtain some matching donations and extra discounts from the stores.
CWA donations filled the warehouse
Joe Gresham, manager of UFO’s warehouse, said it was amazing and inspirational to see the food roll in. CWA brought in 28 pallets loaded with about 43,000 food items. Gresham said the CWA food allowed the UFO program to end this year in the black.
Representatives of the 12 local food pantries supported by UFO said the extra food was so welcomed. They were especially appreciative that CWA took the time to find out the items most needed by the pantries before they went shopping. This ensured that the items donated would not go to waste.
We love our volunteers. Thank you.
United Food Operation is blessed with so many great people and businesses donate who so freely donate of their time and money. We could always use more, but the ones we have are golden.
Beyond the CWA members, some volunteer stars of last weekend include Girl Scout Troop 2384 of Dunbar, WV; forklift operator Jerry Miller of SGS Petroleum Services; and MH Equipment of Cross Lanes, WV that donated the use of the forklift for the season. These are the kinds of efforts that make all the difference.
The 2017 United Food Operation (UFO) food distribution program will kickoff on Friday, January 13 at 11:00 A.M. and run through April 1, announced Elaine Harris, chairperson of the group.
The 12 UFO participating food pantries are all experiencing increased needs this season, so the organization expects to use all the help it can get this year.
“I am asking everyone to come to the United Food Operation warehouse for the kickoff program on Jan. 13 at 11:00 A.M. and bring monetary and food contributions,” said Harris. “Also, reach out to other companies and organizations and invite them to drop by with a contribution.”
Since 1982, UFO raises funds around the year and uses them each winter to purchase bulk foods needed by community food pantries around Kanawha and Putnam counties. Food is distributed to the pantries on Saturdays for 12 weeks each winter.
To support feeding needy people in our community, area businesses can collect funds or food during the winter season and UFO will take care of getting food to the community food pantries. UFO charges no overhead on monetary contributions. All the funds go to support food distributions in the Kanawha Valley area.
United Food Operation is an all-volunteer group that operates as a 501c(3) charitable organization. No salaries are paid and the group runs with donated labor and equipment out of donated warehouse space at the Institute Industrial Park. Dow Chemical Company maintains the warehouse facility on behalf of the group. Founded in 1981, the group conducted its first winter season food distribution program in 1982. This winter will be the 36th annual food distribution.
Food pantry representatives who participate in United Food Operation (UFO) gathered recently at Dow’s Institute plant to plan this winter’s assault on hunger. The consensus is they are seeing lots of new faces at their pantries this year, so they need to double down to get through the winter. Continue reading Pantry reps see greater need coming in Winter 2017→
The annual United Food Operation volunteer appreciation breakfast is set for Saturday, April 2 at 8:30 AM. The breakfast will be served at the United Food Operation headquarters in Institute, WV.
A traditional West Virginia menu of eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, gravy, jellies, coffee, juice, and milk will be served. All UFO and food pantry volunteers are invited to attend free of charge. Those interested should RSVP to Nancy Grist at email@example.com or 304-342-2023 by Monday, March 28.
Following breakfast, a short organizational meeting will be held, during which volunteers will be recognized. All food UFO & pantry staff, volunteers, and board members are invited.
At the end of the meeting, participating pantries will pick up their loads of food as usual. The event will wrap up the 2016 UFO winter food distribution program.
The next UFO activity will be the National Association of Letter Carriers annual food drive on Saturday, May 14. Volunteers are needed.
Community members got a first look at the new headquarters of United Food Operation (UFO) Saturday during an open house in Institute.
UFO Chairperson Elaine Harris expressed the groups gratitude to Dow Chemical and Bayer CropScience for their generous donations, which led to UFO basically being given the newly renovated building through a very favorable lease. Surveying the completely remodeled facility, Harris remembered times in years gone by when UFO had to work out of less than optimum space.
“This is a wonderful space—UFO hasn’t always had it so good,” she said, recalling years when they had to move pallets of food around because of leaks in the roof and other times having to work out of basically unheated space in the middle of the winter.
For most of the past decade Bayer CropScience had provided the group use of a good building for food distribution that was located about 150 yards west of the current building. But with Bayer selling much of its Institute Industrial Park space to Dow Chemical last year, the former building’s lot was targeted for other uses and the building scheduled for demolition.
Dow, Bayer work together to help UFO
Knowing that would force UFO to find other facilities, the two companies set about solving the problem. During the transition period, Dow and Bayer got together and identified another building at the very northeast corner of the industrial park that would be good for UFO’s use, but it needed a lot of clean-up and renovation.
Dow agreed to lease the building to UFO at a most favorable $1/year, and Bayer agreed to take the lead on renovating the building to prepare it for UFO’s use. Working together, the two firms did a great job on a relatively short timeline. United Food Operation was able to take possession of the building before the end of 2015.
The building turned out to be the best space UFO has ever had. It has its own private access off Rt. 25 and a totally fenced lot. Inside, the building has warehouse space, a conference/break room, an office, and a bathroom—all kept toasty warm with a good heating system, The cleaned-up, repaired, and freshly painted facility is now the pride and joy of the group.
Mayor Terry Greenlee, from the neighboring city of Dunbar, stopped by and welcomed folks to his part of the county. He expressed his appreciation the work of United Food Operation. He was accompanied by Dunbar Councilman Steve Arnott, who has long been a UFO supporter.
Telecommunications companies have long been core contributors to United Food Operation, providing many thousands of dollars in support through the years. Cheryl Black of Frontier Communications told the group about the company’s efforts this year to raise funds for UFO in cooperation with members of the Communications Workers of America. Contributions from the local unit of Verizon were also acknowledged.
Other contributions acknowledged today were those from Clearon’s South Charleston plant, Chemores of Belle, and IVS Hydro of Institute.
Noble Pickens honored for his years of service
Harris announced that the 2016 food drive was dedicated to Noble Pickens of Dunbar. For many years Pickens was a loyal volunteer, who took a lead role in purchasing food and managing distributions to the participating pantries. Recently, his health has greatly limited his volunteer time with the group.
Another food distribution weekend
On Friday morning, volunteers provided by the St. Albans Community Food Pantry prepared the pallets of food so they could be distributed to the pantries on Saturday.
On Saturday morning, before the Open House, the second weekly food distribution of the season was conducted. This week, UFO is indebted to the volunteers who came from SGS Petroleum Services at the Institute Industrial Park.
Each week, different organizations takes responsibility for recruiting and supplying volunteers needed to perform food sorting on Fridays and loading the pantry trucks on Saturdays.
The program has 10 more weeks of food distributions in it’s winter program this year. In May, it will handle food distributions for the Postal Workers Food Drive. All funds donated this winter will go to provide additional food to the weekly food distributions.