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.
Harris, in a Charleston Daily Mail interview, said times are especially tough this year.
“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.