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Check your food pantry offerings


WVU Extension teamed up with the food pantry at Jefferson County Community Ministries to offer cooking classes featuring produce from the JCCM community garden. The class was so popular, JCCM asked nutrition outreach instructor Karin Kozlowski to offer it more frequently and make it longer. (Photo courtesy JCCM)

One in four people get food from a food pantry sometime during the year, according to surveys by Monongalia County’s Food and Hunger Committee.  “Monongalia is one of our more prosperous counties,” said Dr. Nathan Wilson of the WVU geography department. “If the problem is that severe in this county, what is it elsewhere?”

West Virginia’s food pantries are taking steps to find new ways to deliver food and make sure the food is as healthy as possible. “With that many people dependent on food pantries, we need to take care to make the food as nutritious as possible,” said Jamie Jeffrey, M.D., director of Kanawha County’s KEYS 4HealthyKids. “Too often, we don’t pay attention to that.”


Want to improve the nutritional content of your food pantry offerings?



For the JCCM cooking classes, WVU Extension worked out a three week menu of nutritious tasty meals that could be prepared on a SNAP (food stamp) budget. Photo courtesy JCCM.


  • Join forces with WVU Extension. Kanawha City’s Common Grounds food pantry asked WVU Extension Services and dieticians at Charleston Area Medical Center to help revise their food donations policy and appeal. The dieticians reduced total fat in the boxes from 45 gm to 30 gm and total sodium from 4510 grams to 2526 grams. They added fresh produce and whole grains. Sugar went from 111 grams to 74 grams.
  • Here is the healthy donations policy Final Healthy Donation Foods List
  • Here is the nutrient analysis of the food box CG Appendix E- Nutrient Analysis of Food Box
  • Here is the pantry nutrition policy. Nutrition Policy – Donated and Purchased Food


    Jefferson County Community Ministries community garden keeps volunteers busy growing food for the food pantry boxes and cooking classes. (Photo courtesy JCCM).

  • Raise a community garden to supplement the food offerings. Volunteers at Jefferson County Community Ministries volunteers raised a community garden and put the produce in the pantry offerings. JCCM also teamed up with WVU Extension Services to offer cooking classes to teach people how to cook fresh produce on a food stamp budget. Here’s a video and story about their project:


  • Tie in with one of West Virginia’s two large food banks, Mountaineer Food Bank in Gassaway and Facing Hunger Foodbank, located in Huntington, serving parts of WV, KY, and Ohio. “We can fill orders for food pantries and backpack programs,” said Carla Nardella, Mountaineer Food Bank director. “We have gotten to the point that we are getting good quality donations, and we can supply nutritious food.” and


    In the Common Grounds cooking class, parents tried tasty recipes using the contents of the healthier food box. (Photo courtesy KEYS 4HealthyKids).

  • Cold storage is necessary to keep fresh vegetables. Morgantown’s Christian Help Inc. pantry wasn’t able to distribute fresh produce till WVU Extension Services helped them get a refrigeration unit. Now they get unsold produce from the farmers’ market and are able to keep it fresh for distribution with recipes.


Want to offer related services to people who use the pantry?



Sometimes both dad and mom took the cooking class. (Photo courtesy KEYS 4HealthyKids.)

  • Offer affordable, healthy cooking classes. In Kanawha County, the Common Grounds food pantry teamed up with WVU Extension to offer a 6-part cooking class for families with kids ages 1-5, featuring recipes using the contents of the food boxes. Gas cards were provided.

All boxes include Macaroni & cheese, spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, pinto beans and chicken noodle soup. Sunny D was replaced with 100% fruit juice. Sugary cereal was replaced with 100% whole grain oats, spaghetti with 100% whole grain spaghetti, applesauce with peaches packed in juice. Frozen vegetables replaced canned vegetables. Each box also had fresh carrots, apples and oranges.

  • Take the food pantry to isolated areas: Catholic Charities WV’s WellnessWorks program operates a six-county mobile van in the Parkersburg area.
  • Add medical screening. Wellness Works often offers free medical screenings by a physician’s assistant to pantry visitors. For more info:

    Volunteers harvest produce regularly for the food pantry. (Photo courtesy JCCM)


    Exercise classes. People who visit Five Loaves and Two Fishes, the Welch-area food bank, can also get free zumba and exercise classes. “Why not offer things that keep people healthy at the food pantry? They’re here. It’s convenient,” said director Linda McKinney. “People who visit us often have health problems. We can address that in several ways.”

  • Couponing classes. Morgantown’s Starting Points food pantry offers classes that teach people how to save money with coupons.


Also see these related Try This pages:

Healthy cooking classes, Food preservation, Promote home gardening, Teach people to read labels


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