Charleston, WV - A bipartisan group from the West Virginia House of Delegates have come together to address food insecurity issues throughout the Mountain State.
“The prevalence of hunger in West Virginia is largely underestimated,” said Delegate Chad Lovejoy (D-Cabell), who led the formation of the Caucus. “One out of every six West Virginians will face food insecurity at least once this year – that’s nearly 350,000 people. This includes one out of every five of our children, over 67% of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch. As policymakers, we simply must do more.”
The West Virginia House Hunger Caucus will focus on legislation that supports increased access to food for all West Virginians. Two bills of interest to the Caucus have been introduced: House Bill 2396, Related to the Fresh Food Act, would require all state-funded institutions that purchase fresh produce to purchase a minimum of 5% of said produce from in-state producers, and House Bill 2149, Relating to the Farm-to-Food Bank Tax Credit, would allow farmers to deduct 100 percent of the value of their donated edible agricultural products when the value is $2,500 or less. Both bills are waiting to be placed on committees’ agendas.
“These bills will help provide fresh produce and fruit to many West Virginians who currently do not have access to such food,” said Delegate Lisa Zukoff (D-Marshall). “These are win-win opportunities for our farmers and those individuals and families with food security issues.”
During its first Caucus meeting last week, members heard from Joshua Lohnes, Food Policy Research Director at the WVU Food Justice Lab, Cynthia Kirkhart, Executive Director of Facing Hunger Food Bank and Chad Morrison, Executive Director of Mountaineer Food Bank. They all spoke to the pros and cons of the federal support that their organizations receive, then stressed that it’s not enough to feed the people in West Virginia who are food insecure without an increased investment on the state level.
“I found the Hunger Caucus meeting to be informative and extremely beneficial,” said Delegate John Paul Hott (R-Grant). “The passion and persistence of those who want to feed the hungry of our state is admirable. We must find a way to see that the abundance of this great nation does not ignore those in need.”
Additional members of the West Virginia House Hunger Caucus include Delegate Sammi Brown (D-Jefferson), Delegate Joe Canestraro (D-Marshall), Delegate Amanda Estep-Burton (D-Kanawha), Delegate Ed Evans (D-McDowell), Delegate Barbara Fleischauer (D-Monongalia), Delegate Joshua Higginbotham (R-Putnam), Delegate Cindy Lavender-Bowe (D-Greenbrier), Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha), Delegate Andrew Robinson (D-Kanawha), Delegate Danielle Walker (D-Monongalia) and Delegate John Williams (D-Monongalia).