Blog Posts > Food for All Summit Brings Hundreds Together to Advance Food Security

Food for All Summit Brings Hundreds Together to Advance Food Security

Written by Kelly Allen on November 15, 2018

Earlier this week, nearly 100 West Virginians, including farmers, educators, advocates and food pantry representatives, gathered in Buckhannon to address solutions to hunger in the Mountain State. The Food for All Summit was hosted by the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and other partners to focus on increasing food security and equitable access for all in our state.

We began the day by discussing the real challenges we face in West Virginia. Nearly 20 percent of our residents are living in poverty, though many of them are working. One-third of West Virginians live in a food desert, and 70 percent live more than 10 minutes from a grocery store. Our food banks serve over 300,000 West Virginians every single month to alleviate hunger.

Hunger is found across all age ranges and walks of life, so the policies proposed would improve food access for schoolchildren, former felons and seniors alike. And, since solving food access issues requires security at every stage of the food supply chain, solutions ranged from policies that would help farmers to those that would directly help to put food on the tables of the hungry in our state.

We came away from the day with five bold, proactive policies to address hunger along with the tools and the teams that will be needed to turn these proposals into reality.

  • Healthy Food Crop Block Grant– Funds would provide an incentive to eligible farmers who commit to growing plans that serve healthy food initiatives, and the food produced would be utilized by anti-hunger organizations and wellness programs around the state.
  • Administrative Funding for WV’s Food Banks– A proposal to allocate much-needed state funds to our food banks to safely distribute food across West Virginia to the more than 300,000 residents they feed each month.
  • LowWage Employer Fee- Modeled after proposals in Connecticut and Illinois, a low-wage employer fee would require businesses with more than 500 employees to pay a $1.00 fee for every hour their employees work while earning less than $15/hour. This fee would create an incentive for large employers to pay their employees enough to achieve basic economic security, while requiring those who do not to pay their share of the public costs of low wages.
  • Lift the SNAP ban for people with drug felonies- Under 1996 welfare reform legislation, Congress imposed a lifetime ban on receiving SNAP for people with drug felony convictions. Since then 47 states have repealed the ban and West Virginia should do the same, because access to basic food assistance should not be a barrier to helping people successfully re-enter our communities and maintain their recovery.
  • Summer Feeding- This proposal would require every county and school district to have a plan to implement a summer feeding program to ensure that students do not go hungry during the summer months.

Teams are working on each of the five policy proposals and to ensure that increasing food security will be a priority in the upcoming legislative session. Thanksgiving and Christmas are great times to remind your state lawmakers that everyone deserves access to adequate and quality food. To get involved with one of the policy teams, contact Kelly Allen at kallen@wvpolicy.org.

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