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WVa lawmakers form group to identify ways to fight hunger

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 1:11 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia House of Delegates will focus on identifying ways to reduce hunger statewide, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw said Wednesday.

The Clay County Republican announced the formation of a bipartisan workgroup dedicated to food insecurity. The workgroup will be led by Kanawha County Republican Larry Pack and Cabell County Democrat Chad Lovejoy, the House said in a statement.

Food insecurity persists nationwide, especially for children and older adults, as America claws its way out of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. According to data from Feeding America, the food bank network’s members dispensed far more groceries in the last three months of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.

Feeding America says that one in seven West Virginians, including one in five children, are affected by hunger.

“We have plenty of evidence that shows us how deeply connected hunger is to other issues, such as overall health, mental health, academic achievement and economic prosperity,” Pack said. “We are committed to putting in the time and energy to truly understand not only what specific roadblocks are out there hurting our West Virginia families, but also what solutions we can implement in the near future.”

Ten other delegates are part of the workgroup, including Republicans Joshua Higginbotham of Putnam County, John Paul Hott of Grant County, Riley Keaton of Roane County, Kayla Kessinger of Fayette County, and Evan Worrell of Cabell County. The Democrats are Brent Boggs of Braxton County, Ed Evans of McDowell County, Danielle Walker of Monongalia County, Kayla Young of Kanawha County and Lisa Zukoff of Marshall County.

Lovejoy sponsored a bill that failed to gain traction during the most recent legislative session to encourage county school systems to coordinate summer feeding efforts for students. He said the new workgroup is a step to “tackle this problem head-on.”

“This is an exciting announcement recognizing that food insecurity is a priority in West Virginia policymaking,” Lovejoy said.

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