Caitlin Cook: Free summit will bring people together for 'food for all'
By Caitlin Cook | October 19, 2018
Food for all. It’s a simple concept most of us among West Virginia’s hills agree with. No one should go hungry. That’s why the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy, the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition and other partners are holding a one-day food summit — “Food For All” — to gather those across the state fighting against hunger to secure food access and equity for all. New Department of Agriculture data show that 15 million households with 40 million people struggled to get enough food in 2017. Nearly 15 percent of West Virginia households are food insecure. One in five kids in West Virginia struggles with hunger. Making sure people don’t go hungry is a growing concern across the country and there’s never been a more important time to get involved in the fight for food security for all. There’s no cost to attend the summit scheduled for Nov. 13 in Buckhannon and registration is open. Attendees will have a chance to hear from and interact with a wide variety of food insecurity fighters, including Our Children Our Future Safety Net Campaign, WVU Food Justice Lab, American Friends Service Committee, West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families, faith community leaders, service providers and representatives from West Virginia’s two largest food banks, Mountaineer — located in the central part of the state — and Facing Hunger, located in the southern part of the state. The summit will be held at The Event Center at Brushy Fork and run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Food For All will feature presentations and group breakout sessions with a strong commitment to interactive discussions and follow-up actions to move sound food assistance policy forward in West Virginia while protecting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program on the state and federal level. Local farm-to-table restaurant Fish Hawk Acres will provide a locally-sourced lunch, underscoring the important connection between food access for all, West Virginia’s agriculture businesses and the boost the 100 percent federally funded food assistance program provides to local economies. Each SNAP $1 spent in West Virginia generates $1.80 in economic impact. It was not that long ago that the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, along with partners, won a legislative victory that benefited both people and business by allowing West Virginians to use SNAP benefits at farmers markets across the state. Unfortunately, food policy in the Mountain State — and possibly in the nation — is heading in the wrong direction. In early 2019, West Virginia will expand its failed pilot program to nine more counties, in turn, placing more barriers between thousands of West Virginians and the help they need. An estimated 822 people throughout Doddrige, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Monroe, Ohio, Pendleton, Preston, Taylor and Tucker counties will lose food assistance and West Virginia will miss out on an estimated $2 million in federal SNAP dollars. The first wave of nine counties kicked more than 5,400 struggling West Virginians off of food assistance in the West Virginia counties with the best climate to find and maintain employment. The West Virginia DHHR estimates the state would miss out on more than $17 million in federal SNAP dollars if the pilot program went statewide while increasing food insecurity for more than 7,000 people. Nationally, West Virginia must put its faith in the Senate Farm Bill that not only protects but strengthens food assistance, keeping true to the bill’s historic bipartisan commitment to ensuring no American goes hungry. SNAP reduces food insecurity, which can positively impact health and well-being. We hope to see you in Buckhannon just one week after the 2018 midterm elections when we will have a better understanding of who the policymakers in Charleston and Washington will be and what that means when it comes to food for all.