Category Archives: Program Updates

Mid-Winter Event Creates Enthusiasm

Over $6,000 in cash and food donations were received during United Food Operation’s (UFO)  mid-winter event held on Saturday morning, Feb. 22, at its Institute distribution center.

“This will fund another week of food distributions to local pantries,” an appreciative UFO Chair Elaine Harris said. She explained that donations have been somewhat lower over the past year and the program needed this mid-winter boost.

Charleston radio station WQBE provided a two-hour live remote broadcast from the event. This is the third year the station has donated a remote broadcast to help publicize the need for donations.

Todd Mullins, Kanawha Valley Labor Council
Todd Mullins of the Kanawha Valley Labor Council is interviewed by WQBE radio about his group’s participation in United Food Operation.

Standing out among Saturday’s contributions were donations from Communications Workers of America Local 2001, IVS Hydro, Kanawha Valley Labor Council, and employees at wvOASIS–WV Auditor’s Office.

Jennifer Namey wvOASIS
Jennifer Namey of wvOASIS drops off a station wagon full of donated food. wvOASIS is the project developing the new financial management system for state government.

UFO volunteer event manager Joseph Davenport  offered special thanks the everyone who participated.

“The day was a great success with area businesses, local unions, retirees, community organizations, volunteers, and a state government agency all participating,” he said.

The day  began as a usual Saturday with loading food into the food pantry vehicles. UFO supports 13 food pantries in Kanawha and  Putnam counties of West Virginia. Unlike some food banks, UFO gives its food to the pantries free-of-charge.

United Food Operation, Joe Davenport
UFO volunteer Joe Davenport moves a pallet of donated foods into the warehouse where it will be sorted for distribution to local food pantries.

United Food Operation distributions will continue this year each Saturday through April 12.  All donated funds received before that time will be used to add additional food to the amount distributed to each participating pantry.

Empty food pallets, United Food Operation
Empty pallets shown at the end of Saturday morning’s distribution to 13 food pantries. These pallets  will need to be restocked with more food before next Saturday.


United Food Operation readies for 2014 food distribution season

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.

Letter Carriers Food Drive 2013

The National Association of Letter Carriers food drive will take place on May 11, 2013. It is an important effort in the fight against hunger in our area. United Food Operation will again assist the Letter Carriers by distributing the food they collect through 13 food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties.

This Youtube link shows last year’s food collection activity in Charleston, WV.

letter carriers food driveAround 50,000 pounds of food are collected each year in the Charleston region through this activity.

Led by letter carriers represented by the National Association of Letter Carriers (AFL-CIO), with the help of rural letter carriers, other postal employees and numerous other volunteers, nationally, the drive has resulted in delivery of more than one billion pounds of donations to community food banks and pantries over the past 20 years.

2013 food distribution begins

United Food Operation, Inc. has begun its 31st annual food distribution program in Kanawha and Putnam counties. Pictured at the announcement, from left to right, are Drema Ward, of Five Loaves/Two Fish food pantry, Nitro; John Roberts, of Mountain Mission, Charleston; Elaine Harris, UFO chairperson.

United Food Operation (UFO) kicked off its 31st year of winter food distributions this morning. UFO will supply 13 independent food pantries in Kanawha and Putnam counties from January 4 through March 23.

“This year’s food distribution program is dedicated to the hard work of 13 local food pantries partnered with UFO,” said UFO Chairperson Elaine Harris. “Food pantries are the front line in fighting hunger in our communities, and that’s why UFO is dedicated to helping stock food pantries so they can continue to fight hunger in our region,” said Harris.

Harris said additional public support is needed this winter if the pantries are to be able to meet the need. People can volunteer their time or make a donation of food or funds to UFO or to a local food pantry.

“Increasing the number of workplaces participating in collections of money and food could really help our 13 local food pantries this winter,” said Harris.

Dupont and Dow commit support

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.

E.I. Dupont Belle Works donates to United Food Operation
E.I. Dupont’s Pamela Valentine (2nd from right) presents a contribution to UFO chair Elaine Harris (center) to help the 2013 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.

“We thank them for all they do,” she said.

Support continues, challenges begin

It was great to hear today that Bayer CropScience Institute plant continues to commit its support for United Food Operation (UFO) even in the wake of its current operational downsizing and pending layoffs. Of course the reality is that this support cannot be what it once was, and those reductions will hurt.

In recent years the support from Bayer, its employees, and IAM Local 656 has been the cornerstone of UFO’s success. Without Bayer’s help, it is hard to imagine where the program would be today, even if it would exist.

The UFO family is saddened by the loss of a number of long-term UFO supporters as they will be departing from Bayer operations. The loss will be felt by UFO both in its fundraising and volunteer arms.

Those who have been around for more than a few years know that we have been through this before. Just think back to the downsizing and unit shut-downs at Union Carbide/Dow, FMC, Monsanto, and AT&T. Each of those hurt too.

The coming year will be a challenge that, hopefully, will bring out the best in our community and it’s employers as UFO seeks their help in feeding the hungry in our little corner of the world. Everyone knows the need for food is great—maybe about as high as it’s ever been here. Our participating food pantries report their shelves have a lot of gaps and that not all those in need can be adequately served.

As we thank our participating employers for their generous support, we know we must also gain new support from new employers and new individuals. It’s said that every time one door closes, another one opens. We must take this old saying and make it happen in the Kanawha Valley for the sake of those who need our service.

Yes, it will be a challenge, but it’s time to get working.

WQBE Radio Remote to Raise Support

WQBE will be partnering with the United Food Operation again this year on Saturday, March 10. A live remote broadcast will be conducted from the UFO warehouse at the Institute Industrial Park from 6:00 am to 10:00 am.

This effort will raise awareness throughout the community about the need for food in local food pantries and the work of United Food Operation to help them. Donations of food and money are urgently needed to help the pantries meet the need in our community this winter.

Come join WQBE’s Jeff Jeffries, UFO supporters and volunteers as they raise food and funds Saturday morning. Bring your donations to the warehouse or contribute through the program website at

For more information, call 304-342-2023 by 4:00 pm Friday, March 9.

WQBE-FM can be found at 97.5 on the FM dial.