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Food drive underway to help HEMS pantry

November 13, 2018

HUNTINGTON — For most Huntington East Middle School students, there is food on the table for dinner after a day at school. But a portion of students aren’t as fortunate.

“Huntington East Middle School needs your help and your food,” said Sara Sturgen with Old Main Emporium in Huntington. “They have almost 100 students and approximately 15 percent of the student body is faced with food insecurity when school is not in.”

A USDA study revealed that more than 80 percent of households with very low food security reported cutting the size of meals, cutting the frequency of meals or skipping meals altogether. While the biggest stressor for most school-aged children might be homework, household chores or who won the soccer game, for many others, getting a full, healthy meal is a greater concern.

“Most students in Cabell County schools are not facing food insecurity when school is not in session,” said Jedd Flowers, Cabell County Schools’ communications director. “However, we do have some students facing some type of food insecurity at home.”

With that in mind, Sturgen and her partner, Sara Deel, are having a food and items drive to help the food insecure children at the school.

“We have put together a list of needed items and put those on our Facebook page,” Sturgen said. “Bring in an item from the list, and you will be entered to win a gift basket valued at over $500. You get one entry per item, and you can get one entry per dollar if you want to make a monetary donation.”

Sturgen said the gift basket includes items from Old Main Emporium, VC Boutique, Bow Love Boutique and Kenzington Alley.

You can find the entire list on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OldMainEmporium.

“Our goal is to get the Huntington East Middle School pantry the food and items these students need,” Deel said.

Currently, each Friday the school provides food insecure students with two breakfasts, two lunches and three dinners, plus fruit, vegetable and a snack if they have it.

“Sara and I don’t have children, so I think sometimes people don’t realize there is this need at the school,” Sturgen said. “We want to bring this need to everyone’s attention.”

In addition to the cognitive, emotional, mental and physical consequences of food insecurity and poor nutrition, a wide body of research indicates that these consequences follow children into the classroom, often resulting in poor academic performance.

“It’s hard to do well in school if you are hungry,” Flowers said. “That’s the reason supporting these school pantries is so important.”

Flowers said in addition to Huntington East Middle School, there is a need throughout the county.

“We have food pantries at all the public middle schools and high schools in Cabell County, as well as at several of the elementary schools,” Flowers said.

Flowers said the need increases around Thanksgiving, spring break, over the summer and other times when children are out of school.

“These are when the demand is greater, but really there is a need all year round,” he said.

Flowers added that food is not all students need.

“They need personal hygiene products, like deodorant, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste and more,” he said.

To donate items to the Old Main Emporium drive for Huntington East Middle School, stop by their location at 842 4th Ave. in Huntington. Expired items will not be accepted.

Sturgen said donors can also send a check to Old Main Emporium at 842 4th Ave., Huntington, WV 25701, but the check must be made payable to “HEMS Food Pantry.”

“Some out-of-state people have asked us could they send us a check, and we found out that they could and we will make sure the pantry gets the money,” Sturgen said.

Old Main Emporium is continuing this drive until Tuesday, Dec. 18, Sturgen added.

“We want the kids to have enough to take home over the holidays,” she said.

Also, Flowers says you can check with the local schools in your area to find out how you can donate directly to them.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter at @FredPaceHD.

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