LAST WEEK, when a guy from the Huntington Area Food Bank told me they like cans with easy-open, pop-top lids to give to children, a chill went through me, despite the heat.
It's not like I didn't know some children are hungry and undernourished in West Virginia. I've been writing about low-income people and struggling families for more than 20 years.
Still, some images just stick. Some experiences help us focus.
The June 29 storm focused attention on, among other things, the shortage of food for many children and adults. It is an important issue to remember even as we continue to get back to normal.
Unfortunately, normal includes about 14.1 percent of West Virginia households that did not have enough food for a healthy and active life at some point during the year in 2010, the last time the survey was taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service. Even at that, West Virginia is right around the national average of 14.5 percent. Other states are much worse. Economic problems have made more families "food insecure." In 2007, the national rate had been steady for years around 11 percent.
Scott Frasure, development director of the Huntington Area Food Bank, said they like ready-to-eat donations of foods that are rich in protein and that require no heat or refrigeration to eat. They try to steer easy-open cans that require no can openers to kids.
The food bank regularly supplies food to students through nine high schools and participates in nine elementary school backpack programs. That's during the school year.
In addition to everything else, recent storms also disrupted efforts by Frasure and his colleagues to establish more summer feeding programs for children.
Think of this: West Virginia has about 200,000 children who receive free and reduced price school meals because their families have small incomes. But during the summer, only 17,000 children participate in summer feeding programs. While not every kid who receives free or reduced meals at school is short of food at home, some are.
Frasure's experience tracks with other findings in the USDA survey, including a few that might surprise you: