Mon County Center based Healthy Kids Inc. wins ARC Power Award

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A local program that aims to provide healthy foods to Monongalia County residents will receive grant funding for winning the POWER Award from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

For their part as a partner in the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, Healthy Kids Inc. will receive a portion of approximately $1.13 million to expand the food production hub at the Monongalia County Center at Mylan Park. The funds will help complete the “preservation kitchen” at the center so fresh food offerings can be packaged and sent to food banks in North Central West Virginia and other parts of the Mountain State.

“We are preparing now for the preservation kitchen, the timing for that is so perfect, and we’re excited for where that’s going to go and how it’s going to serve others from across the state too,” said Healthy Kids Inc. Co-Founder Mandy Curry.

The kitchen’s expanded food preservation capabilities will allow for expanded offerings of fresh meals that can be delivered. According to Curry, the goal is to use the kitchen to take locally grown fruits, vegetables, and meats to be packaged for groups like the Mountaineer Food Bank, who has asked for a combination of fresh and frozen meals. These would then be served to underprivileged children and seniors who may be unable to get meals.

“This will allow us to prepare meals, frozen meals that could then be produced out of that kitchen and sent to other parts of the state,” said Curry on the benefits of the preservation kitchen. “Senior meals, after-school meals, whatever they may be,” she said.

The addition of the preservation kitchen is expected to be completed in November. Once it’s complete, Healthy Kids Inc. will begin delivering fresh and frozen meals to local organizations by early 2024, with a goal to surpass their average of 1,000 meals that are delivered each day. Curry also stated that they will get food-related licenses by the end of 2023 to allow for the packaging of meals to be done at the Monongalia County Center and kick off the pilot expansion of the program.

“We will then be working on our manufacturers license, and by the first of January, we should be able to produce (meals) that we can start to send out,” said Curry. “It’ll be a pilot phase out of this kitchen, but that is the plan, we don’t know how many we’re going to be able to produce, but this is where we’re starting,” she said.

Healthy Kids Inc. has been working in collaboration with the Monongalia County Commission, local funders, and non-profits since 2019. Efforts were expanded in 2021 to construct the commercial-sized community kitchen that allowed meals offered to the public to be free of any canned foods with items donated from local farmers and food producers in Monongalia and Preston County. These efforts will be further supported by the commission as expansion to serve more members of the community continues.

“The idea was that it’s the old, give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, feed them for a lifetime, and that’s what we wanted to do, and we’re still moving forward,” said Commissioner Sean Sikora on the completion of the preservation kitchen. “And we used your vision for what we needed to have, so your organization deserves a lot of credit,” he said.