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 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.
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.
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.
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 unitedfoodoperation.org. 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.