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CHARLESTON—Over 30,000 people in Kanawha and Putnam counties are expected to benefit from this year’s United Food Operation (UFO) food distribution program, which kicked off its 35th annual food distribution program today.

“Our local food pantries are seeing even more need this year than last,” says Elaine Harris, UFO chairperson. “We are determined to help them fight hunger in our community.”

The 2017 food distribution program, which runs through April 1, is the 35th in a row for the group. The all-volunteer charity does not distribute food directly to the public but purchases food in bulk that supplies 12 independent food pantries across Kanawha and Putnam counties. 

“The lines at the food pantries and soup kitchens tell us that many families in the Charleston region are still experiencing an economic downturn,” Harris says. “Heating bills and the higher cost of food puts more pressure on families that are already financially stressed. Food pantries are all seeing a lot of new faces needing help.”

Harris adds that the group could use more workplaces helping out with collections of money and food. She encouraged those wishing to help to call 304-342-2023 for details. Financial contributions to United Food Operation may be sent to PO Box 20441, Charleston, WV 25362.

Harris says that winter is the time of greatest need and that stocks on food pantry shelves often grow thin. She feels that as an all-volunteer organization UFO is a very efficient vehicle for providing food to area pantries.

“We are totally run by volunteers and operate out of donated facilities,” she explains. “We don’t pay salaries, rent or utilities. We have almost no overhead. The money we raise goes to buying food for the needy.”

UFO is qualified as a 501-c(3) charitable organization, so donations may be deductible. It operates from a facility at the Institute Industrial Park.