(WTRF) – Lines wrapped through parking lots. Bags of food put in trunks. Food distributions have become a familiar site during during the last few months as more people need assistance to feed their families. 

While the pandemic has made the need for food more visible, hunger isn’t a new problem in West Virginia.

Imagine having to choose between paying for food or paying another living expense like your electric bill. That’s the reality for thousands of West Virginians, even prior to COVID-19.

Hunger is, it’s not just during a disaster or a pandemic. There’s people that are struggling with hunger all the time.

Chad Morrison, Executive Director, Mountaineer Food Bank

It could be your friends, your neighbors, before COVID-19 the Mountaineer Food Bank was serving more than 200,000 people in the Mountain State. 

That’s about 20 million pounds of food distributed in 2019.

COVID-19 has accelerated that and it has really highlighted a lot of the major issues that we have, and it showed us that margin, that very thin margin that people are living on between being able to support themselves and needing to go to the food pantry.

Chad Morrison, Executive Director, Mountaineer Food Bank

Now, with more losing jobs or even missing one paycheck, conditions are escalating.

We went to a situation where you know maybe 15 to 20 percent of the state was struggling to everyone is struggling.

Chad Morrison, Executive Director, Mountaineer Food Bank

Mountaineer Food Bank says it went from 10 mobile pantries a month, to 37 in June alone. 

To use the Northern Panhandle as an example, about 15,000 people were were considered food insecure normally and now across the state those numbers have gone up five to 10 percent.

Why is hunger so prevalent? 

Morrison believes it’s a combination of struggles, but mostly it’s getting access to the food with lack of services like transportation and parts of the state being so rural.

However, the problems still exist in more urban areas.

The question now becomes how do they get food to those in need?

We’ve had all-night crews making sure this food is going out. Went from doing two or three truckloads per day to we’re doing eight truckloads per day. It’s intensified quite a bit.

Chad Morrison, Executive Director, Mountaineer Food Bank

Mountaineer Food Bank’s efforts have been massive since March, and with the help of community partners they’ll continue to fight hunger during the pandemic and long after. 

That’s the great thing about West Virginia. People really they come together and make sure their neighbors have food.

Chad Morrison, Executive Director, Mountaineer Food Bank

How can you help?

Morrison said checking on your family and neighbors can go a long way. Also, make sure they are aware of food distributions if you see them coming to your community.

If you’d like to help Mountaineer Food Bank, their volunteer protocols are different right now to keep everyone safe. You can donate online or find more information at mountaineerfoodbank.org.