Residents talk food insecurity in the Mid-Ohio Valley
PLEASANTS COUNTY, W.Va. (WTAP) - In Belmont, West Virginia, there are no supermarkets.
There is a grocery store in nearby St. Marys, but a Belmont resident we spoke to on the condition of anonymity can’t get there on a regular basis.
“Where I live, there’s no public transportation, like, we don’t have a car,” she said.
Because she can’t drive to the store, the Belmont resident walks about 15 minutes along State Route 2 to a Dollar General to pick up basics like snacks and milk.
“There’s actually no sidewalks, or anything to get there, that or walk alongside the road. Which, we’ve been harassed by drivers several, several times,” she said.
“Actually, just a couple of days ago, we went over to go get food and a driver thought it would be funny to try to run my boyfriend off of the road. Like, he just swerved over. He thought it would be funny to get him to run into a ditch. Like, it shouldn’t be that difficult to go get milk.”
We spoke to town officials in Belmont who said they are actually working on refurbishing the town’s sidewalks now. But, Route 2 to Dollar General is controlled by the state and there’s not much local officials can do to improve walking conditions along it.
“It’s frustrating,” said the Belmont resident. “Especially because for a lot of us, the Dollar General opening was really exciting and then not even having walkway access is kind of like a slap in the face at that point.”
The Belmont resident isn’t the only person in the Mid-Ohio Valley who has trouble getting to the store.
Data from the United States Department of Agriculture in 2019 shows the census tract that includes the town of Belmont and most of St. Marys has 110 households that do not have a vehicle and are more than half a mile from a supermarket.
The same data shows a census tract just across the river from St. Marys with 163 households more than half a mile from a supermarket with no car to take them there.
Just south of Parkersburg in Wood County, there’s a tract with 284 households living further than half a mile from a supermarket with no car.
Where there is disparity, there are people trying to help.
Jennifer White, Director of Pleasants County Neighbor Network, located in St. Marys, said her organization has a food pantry and would give rides into the grocery store if need be.
White grew up in Pleasants County and said there are limited job opportunities in the area, which can be a hurdle for many.
“There’s not a whole lot outside of the plants around here,” said White. “There’s just not a lot of industry around here, so a lot of folks are trying to make it on a minimum wage job or two minimum wage jobs and it’s difficult to do.”
Copyright 2021 WTAP. All rights reserved.