April 11, 2018
Loaves and fishes
McDowell County is one of the poorest in West Virginia--and the nation. Before the coming of the coal industry, the population was tiny, with around 1500 people in 1860. When the mines were cranking, the population ballooned, growing to nearly 100,000 by 1950. As mining employment declined, it contracted hugely. I'd guess it's now below 20,000. High poverty rates also mean high un- and under-employment. It's also a food desert.
This Charleston Gazette-Mail article by Caity Coyne is a great summary of the struggles of people there to meet their basic food needs and of local charities like Five Loaves and Two Fishes to help that happen. Those struggles are likely to get harder in the wake of HB 4001, in which Gov. Jim Justice and the Republican legislative majority restricted SNAP benefits, throwing thousands of low income West Virginians under the metaphorical bus. Possible federal changes to food assistance under the Farm Bill could make things even worse.
Looks like food justice fighters are going to be busy.
The article also shows the importance of good local newspapers that do in-depth investigative reporting. We're going to need a lot of that.