West Virginians use Facebook to battle food insecurity, build community

BY ZACHARY RISSMAN, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT SYSTEM AMERICORPS VISTA, THE HUB

In times of crisis, we are defined by how we come together to respond to the challenges that we face.

On Friday, March 13th, Governor Jim Justice announced that all schools would be temporarily closed. While critical to slowing the spread of the coronavirus, this decision also put one huge question on the table:

How can we ensure that students who rely on school meals will not go hungry? One group of community organizers sprang into action.

On that same day, Jenny Anderson with Our Future WV and Liz Brunello with the American Friends Service Committee dove into this question head first, as Jenny Anderson says, “knowing there would be a great need to feed kids. Not even thinking twice about logistics or a system and only the need.”

Their first move was creating a Facebook Group called “WV Food ER 2020” designed to support families in this time of crisis.

Find WV Food ER 2020 on Facebook »

Jenny said that the Facebook Group is designed to organize resources and tools, but also to better prepare for future crises.

“The main goal and objective of the Facebook group is to collect state-run and community resources and tools that families and individuals can use during this stressful time while COVID-19 is a threat and as we do this, create a best tool and practice kit for the future in case we have another crisis.”

Beyond sharing information and creating toolkits, the Facebook Group also directly connects volunteers with families in need. “We have a needs form families or individuals can fill out,” Jenny said, “and we use our volunteer lists and connect to other resources to find volunteers to help. We are also organizing volunteers to help organizations and businesses to prep food, pick up or drop off supplies and food to families or individuals using safety precautions for themselves and others. We do not connect volunteers directly to transport people or recommend for childcare, but connect them to organizations that do service those needs to keep folks safe.”

They also have compiled a donation list from families and individuals who have filled out the needs survey for people who want to contribute and are collecting donations to distribute to families. 

The work of Jenny and Liz and the Facebook Group they created reflects a needed grassroots approach to addressing this crisis. In these times of uncertainty and fear, coming together as a community is our best hope at getting through this together.

Thank you Jenny, Liz, and the many volunteers who are contributing their time, energy, and money to ensure that our most vulnerable are cared for. We deeply appreciate you all. 

Find WV Food ER 2020 on Facebook »

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