ELK GARDEN - In 1981, the Mountaineer Food Bank was started in Gassaway, West Virginia, and now has become the largest emergency food provider in the state.

By Jean Braithwaite
Tribune Correspondent
ELK GARDEN - In 1981, the Mountaineer Food Bank was started in Gassaway, West Virginia, and now has become the largest emergency food provider in the state.
Marian Droppleman, mayor of Elk Garden, recently sought assistance from the food bank for the community, out of concern due to the closing of Verso, plus those businesses, such as wood haulers, affected by the paper mill closure.
Droppleman said that because of the unemployment issue with the closing of the paper mill, “A big tidal wave has not yet hit this area, but it will happen,” adding, “We have to take care of our community.”
The first step for Droppleman was to receive permission from the town council members to allow the Mountaineer Food Bank truck to come into the community.
A 100 percent vote came from Elk Garden’s elected officials, and within a matter of weeks, the food truck was in the parking lot of the town’s Methodist Church.
Droppleman was helped through this process by a Mineral County person, who didn’t want to be named, however they have had successful experience with area food pantries.
Katie Kriswell, of the Mountaineer Food Bank, and the coordinator for the Elk Garden food drop, said the purpose of the program is to “reach insecure areas of West Virginia with food.”
She also said the food program is now available in 48 counties of the 55 counties in the state.
Kriswell said the food that is distributed comes from USDA commodities, donations, and grant funding, while saying the Mountaineer Food Bank is non-profit organization.
She said that the only requirement to receive the food items in the mountaintop community was to have a 26717 zip code, which belongs to Elk Garden and the surrounding small outlying areas
Kriswell said that it was amazing to reach the people and to “get to an area with food.”
The Rev. Tom Matthews, pastor of the Mountain Side Circuit of the Methodist Church, who was donating his time to help unpack the food items from the truck and also assisted with distribution of the items, said that it was good to do as Jesus did “to feed the people.”
Matthews’ wife, Mary, said, “This is a fabulous thing for giving food to the community; it is needed here and needed all around this area.”
She said that her husband was recently awakened from his sleep through the night, and, “He felt he had been called to move to feed.”
Dropplemen said that the recent Mountaineer Food drop was a trial run, and she added that it was successful, with over 100 people receiving food boxes full of chicken, milk, oranges, bread, carrots, wheat crackers, canned vegetables, and more.
She also gave credit to numerous volunteers from the community who helped with the distribution of the food items.
Droppleman said that she is trying to arrange a food drop to happen in Elk Garden on a once-a-month basis.