Cumberland Times-News

September 17, 2013

USDA cutback limits assistance, congressman told

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— KEYSER, W.Va. — A se-vere cutback in U.S. Department of Agriculture commodities was a topic of discussion during U.S. Rep. David McKinley’s visit to Faith in Action Food Pantry on Monday.

“We work on a shoestring (budget) most of the time,” said Robin Ra-venscroft, who handles public relations for the food pantry. “Sometimes the shoestring is thinner than others.”

The food pantry does receive grants but usually they are for $1,500 and are not enough, according to Ravenscroft.

“The USDA commodities vary from month to month. Some months it can be a lot and some months nothing,” said Ravenscroft.

Churches provide 38 percent of the food pantry’s income, followed by individuals, who provide 32 percent, grants provide 21 percent and organizations provide 9 percent. Even though grant amounts are minimal, without them the food pantry wouldn’t survive, according to Ed Smith, treasurer.

“We submitted eight grant requests this year and received four, which totaled $4,000,” said Smith. “I would encourage the continuation of the grant process. If that thing ever dries up we would not be able to do what we are doing now.”

There has been some talk in Washington, D.C. about taking tax reform and eliminating deductions, one of which is charitable deductions, according to McKinley.

“I’m very supportive of tax reform because our tax system in America is broken. We have got to correct it,” said McKinley. “I have been adamantly opposed to that (eliminating deductions) and have let them know you are going to shut down a lot of entities.”

McKinley noted that misused funds may be able to be captured from somewhere else and could be applied where needed.

“We spend over $10 million a year in Ecuador to have them reduce their child labor,” said McKinley. “It’s a horrible situation, but when we have problems here in America I don’t want to take on $10 million.”

Keyser Mayor Randy Amtower suggested that community leaders meet with board members from Faith in Action, representatives of Helping Hands and Community Corrections, as well as managers from Walmart and Martin’s. The groups could form partnerships, improve communications and collaborate to reach more needy people.

“Partnerships are how things are happening all over the nation now,” said Amtower. “I think that is how you succeed. There is so much overlap that people don’t know what the other one has got. There may be a lot of waste in one area that someone needs. You (McKinley) could be part of that dialogue, then you can relate to it from a federal level and implement it.”

Ravenscroft stressed the importance of the food pantry to the community. She hears every day how much of an impact the food pantry has made in people’s lives.

“You just never know the difference you make in people’s lives,” said Ravenscroft.

The food pantry started in 1984 in the basement of the Baptist church on West Piedmont Street. At one point it moved to Center Street and then to its final location on James Street, according to Judy Young, president of the food pantry.

Young noted that at most of the locations Faith in Action had to pay rent. Doug Wolfe of Community Corrections said that it would help the food pantry greatly if someone didn’t charge rent or could donate a building.  

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.