Sanders' Message from McDowell on Poverty: Stand Together

May 5, 2016

Bernie Sanders made stops throughout West Virginia Thursday. He started the day with a round table discussion in McDowell County, at a food bank.

Sanders chose Five Loaves And Two Fishes Food Bank for his campaign stop - a food pantry in the poorest county of West Virginia, one of the poorest counties in the country. The senator began his visit by saying that he wasn’t here to rally, but to talk about poverty.


“Physiology of poverty is the stress that your body deals with every day when you worry about whether the lights stay on or if you have enough money to put gas in the car to get to work," sanders said, "and if you can’t put gas in the car you lose your job. And what happens when you lose your job to the rest of your life?”

“People are on the edge every single day,” Sanders continued.  “People who have money don’t understand what that is about. When you don’t have money and you are fighting for survival every day,  that takes a huge toll on your health.”

Stacks of food were moved aside to make room for over 250 people from around the area who attended the event. Organizers from Five Fishes & Two Loaves told the crowd that the pantry fed half the population of the county last year, 11,000 people.

It isn’t the first time Sanders has been to southern West Virginia. He came three years ago on a visit with native Sabrina Shrader who had been to Washington, D.C., to testify before Congress about growing up in impoverished conditions.

Shrader, who is now running for House of Delegates, sat on a small stage next to Sanders along with other panelists, including attorney Sam Petsonk, and an elementary school teacher Tonya Spinella. Topics discussed over the hour and a half visit covered everything from crime, addiction and health care to economics.

“You’re not going to get a handle on the crime problem unless you get a handle on the drug problem," Sanders said. "You’re not going to get a handle on the drug problem - I think - unless we deal with some economic issues and unless we deal with the despair and the hopelessness that people are feeling.”

Sanders called for stories of struggle and solutions from the audience, and when pressed for some of his own solutions, he said people will have to stand together just as they have had to in the past.

“That’s the way change in America always takes place," he said. "It’s is the history of the history of the United Coal Miners Workers Union, the Civil Rights Movement - whatever movements there are, people come together, fight back and say that the status quo is not acceptable. And I think that’s the moment we’re in right now.”

Sanders moved on from McDowell County Thursday to large rallies in Charleston, and then to Morgantown.