Food system reporting reflection

All though I have written several stories regarding food, health and wellness in the past, this was my first time reporting on the food system in and of itself. Similarly, this was also my first time reporting on food specifically in West Virginia. On Friday, October 7, we traveled to the Mountaineer Food Bank in Gassaway, West Virginia. I have been to food pantries and community kitchens as a volunteer in the past, but this was my first trip to a food bank.

The Mountaineer Food Bank’s development coordinator Allyson Peters Lewis, who led our group, was very knowledgeable. She provided us with a ton of great information, including data and statistics, which will be very beneficial when it comes time to write the story. I addition to data and statistics, Lewis had several quotes that will emotionally resonate with an audience, making them ideal for both the print story and video story. Lewis was very happy to spend time with us, which made for very, upbeat, fast-paced reporting full of relevant information — much of it I was unaware of until Lewis spoke with us.

At the Mountaineer Food Bank I also had to opportunity to experiment with a 360-degree camera for the first time. As a journalism major with an emphasis on print media during my undergraduate studies at West Virginia University, I have always been a little intimidated by cameras and photo/video editing software; the 360-degree camera was no exception. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the 360-degree was relatively easy to get the hang of, and I ended up with a couple great stills of the Mountaineer Food Bank.

Lastly, Lewis provided us the opportunity to volunteer as a class at the Mountaineer Food Bank. My group and I tore German labels off jars of peanut butter and replaced them with English labels. It was so interesting to see just how much work goes into a food bank, and what it takes to keep the facility running; I am so happy we all were able to experience that firsthand. Most of the behind-the-scenes work like this goes unnoticed by the general public.

After the Mountaineer Food Bank, my group and I headed back to Morgantown to visit Christian Help. There, we spoke with Ashley Reece, a senior sociology major at WVU. She gave us a comprehensive tour of the facility, which includes a free shop downstairs (that offers clothing, food, etc.), a food pantry and kitchen upstairs and other donations like toiletries, kitchenware, office supplies, children’s clothes and men and women’s professional clothing.

Reece’s perspective on the food system was slightly different than that of Lewis’, and I am so pleased we were able to report on both sides. Most prominently, Christian Help does not receive goods from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), while the Mountaineer Food Bank does. Similarly, Christian Help supplies goods directly to the people, so that they are able to build relationships with them; talking to them firsthand also provides the facility with useful feedback. The Mountaineer Food Bank supplies food pantries, backpack programs and the like with food across the majority of West Virginia; they usually do not interact directly with the people, they have USDA regulations to follow and more hurdles over which to jump.