PHILIPPI — The large red and white IGA sign still hanging above the grocery store in the center of Philippi, West Virginia, is a constant reminder of what the space used to be.
Luckily, that isn’t where the story ends for the large food retail space.
Since a Barbour County nonprofit, Heart and Hand House, purchased the building in the summer of 2013, it’s been operating a food hub to provide fresh, local foods to area residents.
“We’re calling this the Marketplace,” said Brenda Hunt, executive director of Heart and Hand House, Inc.
Hunt hosted more than 30 people at the Marketplace on April 22 for a West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition Hub Club meeting. Members of the Hub Club traveled from across the state — from Richwood to Berkley Springs — to discuss food hubs and learn how to apply for a food hub mini-grant offered by the Food & Farm Coalition.
As part of its mission to build and support a statewide network of people involved in strengthening food economies here, the Food & Farm Coalition hosts members involved in the local foods movement.
Hunt shared the Heart and Hand House’s food hub model to attendees in a back meeting room.
“It’s really a community project,” Hunt said.
She and other organizers are hoping it influences the whole community by meeting not only nutritional needs for good, fresh, local produce, but also social needs for a meeting place, a space — with free wifi — for folks to gather.
“We are a recognized food desert,” Hunt said. “We have two grocery stores in the county. They are both Shop ’N Save. There’s one in Philippi and one in Belington. Other than some little family markets here and there, you have to travel to Bridgeport, Elkins or Buckhannon.
“What we’re hoping is, we can begin to train folks to come and see what the local options are here.”