Mar. 3—MATOAKA — The Matoaka community has added a new program to its growing list of initiatives.

Feeding Families Prime held its first food bank Tuesday, offering a holistic approach to the traditional food pantry.

Sponsored by the Mountaineer Food Bank, the program, held at the Old Methodist Church on Mercer Street, focuses on residents with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and cancer and is designed to provide healthy meal kits to 150 people twice a month.

Alicia Vest, one of the organizers representing the Matoaka Coalition for Healthy Communities, said Wilhelmina Jones with Southern Highlands had reached out to Mountaineer Food Bank asking them to come to Matoaka.

The idea, Vest said, is to focus on people with health issues, but “we feed the hungry too” and it’s open to all Mercer County residents.

Vest said the food given away is healthy and includes items with a long shelf life as well as produce and water.

Not only is the food available for those who want to participate in the Feeding Families Prime program, cooking classes are also planned, Vest said.

Jill Puckett with the WVU Extension office will provide demonstrations on cooking healthy food.

Southern Highlands and Community Connections were also on hand Tuesday to provide information about various programs, including help with substance abuse and Narcan.

A class for mothers and babies will be offered soon, she said, as well as one on the harmful effects of smoking.

“They will include a lot of things that help make Matoaka and Mercer County healthy,” Vest said.

Greg Puckett, executive director of Community Connections and a Mercer County Commissioner, also attended Tuesday’s inaugural event, providing information about substance abuse and how to get help.

Puckett praised the Matoaka Coalition, part of the Mercer County Coalition for Healthy Communities.

“They want to let people know the community still exits,” he said, referring to the dissolution of the town in recent years.

Puckett said the coalition held a community cleanup last fall and another one recently.

“This is a community group that started their own community coalition,” he said. “The food pantry is part of understanding the need and providing support. They are doing all kinds of good work down here.”

Puckett also said Vest and Dolly Chartrand have plans in the works for a restaurant in Matoaka.

Vest said Matoaka is not going anywhere.

“We are still a community and we have good things,” she said. “We want to show people that Matoaka is still here.”

Vest also said the first Feed Families Prime event drew a good turnout and it was great to see people come out for it.

“It was awesome,” she said.

The next event will be held at the church on March 16 from 11 a,m, to 1 p.m.

— Contact Charles Boothe at [email protected]

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