BRIDGEPORT - Describing the 116 activists and community members gathered Friday to discuss eliminating poverty in West Virginia, Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, noted the group's "energy and inspiration."
". . . All throughout West Virginia, a lot of people have given up," he said. "That's not what's in this room. There's a lot of energy and inspiration."
Proposals discussed at the "Our Children, Our Future" daylong session at the Bridgeport Conference Center ranged from how to remove soft drinks from the food stamp program - now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP - to how fresh food can be made more accessible.
Dana Singer, system coordinator for the Mid-Ohio Valley Rural Health Alliance, said sugary, acidic drinks are marketed directly to children, even though drinks like Mountain Dew damage children's teeth.
Mary Beth Shea, oral health coordinator for the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, said mothers giving children sugary, acidic drinks has become pervasive.
"Eighty percent of tooth decay is in 20 percent of our population, and it is focused in our low-income population," she said. "There are no mechanisms in current programs to replace teeth.
"West Virginia consistently ranks No. 1 in poor oral health in the nation," Shea said. "We have two paths we can take. One is of health, where we try to help all of the population."
Singer finished Shea's sentence, "Or, we can pay for things we pay for twice - first the purchase, then the treatment."
At the breakout session on making fresh food and vegetables more accessible, the discussion by the 24 participants ranged from the general to the specific.
Elizabeth Cruikshank, a volunteer with Main Street Fairmont, said she is appalled at the lack of fresh produce in some Fairmont-area supermarkets and that some people don't seem to care.