Updated: Apr 1
The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays usually bring a groundswell of giving. Generous donors buy toys for children whose families cannot otherwise afford them. Warm clothing is donated. And students conduct food drives to receive donations of cans and non-perishable food items.
Local food pantries are able to restock their shelves, and people who need the help get it. The generosity of those who give, whether they can afford it or not, also helps the people who donate. The feeling of reaching out to help someone is satisfying, whether you are dropping off cans for a food drive or dishing out hot meals at a shelter.
However, the situation with families who have inadequate food supplies doesn’t end with the holidays. It’s a persistent problem throughout the year.
Last fall, Kansas Appleseed, a non-profit organization, published a report naming 10 counties where a significant number of families were dealing with food insecurity in 2021. While Linn County was not among those 10, Bourbon and Allen and eight other counties to the south were.
However, just two years before, Linn County would have been on that list.
Food insecurity is a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life. This might be a temporary situation or a long lasting issue.
Food insecurity has many causes, layoffs at work, unexpected car maintenance, health issues, an accident on a job, rising food costs, utilities, and healthcare costs, according to Harvesters, a community network organization based in Kansas City, Mo. Any of those situations can suddenly force a family, a senior, or a person on a fixed income to choose between buying food and paying bills.
The effects of food insecurity can be serious health conditions when people have to choose between food and life saving medical care or medication. Food insecurity can damage a child’s ability to learn and grow and reduce an adult’s ability to focus at work and keep their jobs.
In Harvester’s 26-county area in Kansas and Missouri, 323,660 people are at risk of hunger, this includes 99,360 children.
In 2019, 23 percent or about 500 of the children in Linn County were food insecure according to feedingamerica.org. That was before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) announced the continuation of the emergency food assistance benefits to current participants through July 31. This will increase the maximum monthly benefit for 63,000 households in Kansas.
The map above shows the projected food insecurity rate for each Kansas County for 2021. Although Linn County was included in the 22 percent to 28 percent range in 2019, it dropped to the 16 percent to 22 percent range for last year. (Kansas Appleseed)
But, the funds do not allow recipients to buy non-food items like hygiene products, soap, diapers, toilet paper, toothpaste or even plastic wrap to save leftovers. With inflation affecting prices for most goods, these items have gone up in cost.
On the front line of the war against hunger are food pantries found in every corner of the county. The food pantries in Linn County draw from a variety of resources to help people who need food and other essential hygiene items.
Reach Out Food Pantry, Prescott
The Reach Out Food Pantry in Prescott serves 40 to 50 families a week. The person in charge there, Karen Springer, said that the numbers have changed during the COVID pandemic. At first, they went up, but went down some when people were receiving the stimulus checks. However, the numbers are starting to go up again.
Reach Out receives food and supplies from several sources. They purchase some food locally and receive some from Harvesters. They receive about 60 percent to 70 percent of their food from the Kansas Food Bank.
Prescott also receives commodities, which are from the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. This is distributed through the Kansas Department of Children and Families (DCF) from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Commodities usually has 10 or so different items, including tortillas, hamburger, peanut butter, milk, dried beans, rice, and more. Reach Out picks these items up from Fort Scott.
Other resources are Hunters for Hunger who have donated deer meat and gardeners who donate produce. Pleasanton Elementary has donated two trailers of food this year after conducting food drives.
Value Merchandise in Wichita, donates soaps, personal hygiene products, tooth paste and deodorant. They have also received grant money from Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative’s Operation Round Up program.
The Prescott Food Pantry is open on Saturday and Mondays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the south door of Prescott City Hall.
Kansas residents can pick up commodities on the first Tuesday of the month from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Harvesters is also available at that time. To contact the pantry the number is (913) 471-4564.
La Cygne Food Pantry
The La Cygne Food Pantry is run by volunteers and is located in the United Methodist Church. This food pantry does not use Harvesters, but it does have food from the commodities program.
Paul Kana, the person in charge, says that the volunteers are a variety of people across the community. He says that while he does a lot of the food ordering and work before the pickups, the volunteers walk the food out to the recipients in their vehicle – even in the heat and the cold. They really love what they do, he said.
Food resources for La Cygne pantry are the Kansas Food Bank, donations from individuals, and food drives from the Prairie View school district. They also receive donations from other churches in La Cygne.
Kana said that they serve 50 to 60 households each distribution. He said that the numbers at the La Cygne site had also fluctuated from 60 a couple of years ago down to 45. However, that number is again approaching 60.
He said that while they try to be good stewards of the money and donations they receive, they also try to make sure nobody goes hungry. While people are asked about their incomes, there are no major forms to fill out. People do have to qualify to receive items from the commodities program.
At La Cygne, after money, the best things to donate are canned vegetables, soups shelf stable milk, dry powdered milk, hygiene items, shampoo, diapers, canned meat and fish products, he said. Some people donate deer meat.
The hours for that food pantry are 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. People drive up and tell them their name and how many people are in their family. Volunteers bring the food out to their cars. For questions, call or text (913) 481-2034.
Concern Inc., Mound City
Concern Inc. is the main food bank in Mound City. One of the people in charge is DeAnn Dawson.
Concern does not receive food from Harvesters; it comes mostly from donations, Dawson said. Concern also received a grant from Heartland’s Operation Round Up. It does not have any guidelines for the people who pick up food. Each family can pick up food one time a month.
Good items to donate are shelf-stable foods, canned vegetables and fruit, jelly, peanut butter, personal hygiene products, shampoo and conditioner, toilet paper and paper towels and deodorants. She said household items and clothing, shoes and coats can also be donated.
Dawson said that people just had to fill out an application. She said they were there to serve Linn County residents and did not turn anybody away. Their hours are 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Saturday. In the food pantry, Concern serves approximately 30 families a month.
Dawson said that commodities are passed out monthly at the United Methodist Church at Third and Main streets in Mound City. They are distributed on the fourth Tuesday of each month from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
She also said that Catholic Charities comes down several times a year to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church. They will be in Mound City on the following dates from nine until noon, March 16, April 27, and June 27.
In addition to food, Concern also has clothing, household goods, and is able to help with utility bills.
Helping Hands and Hearts Food Pantry, Parker
Rita Kerr is the person in charge of the Parker food pantry at the United Methodist Church. It is open the second and third Wednesdays of the month from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The pantry doesn’t receive Harvesters or commodities food, but it gets supplies from monetary donations, food drives at the elementary school, a grant from Heartland’s Round Up Program, food donations from individuals, and farmers who donate meat. Catholic Charities also drops off food for the pantry occasionally.
Kerr said that they mostly serve Prairie View USD 362 patrons. At present, the number of families they serve has gone from 20 down to about 12.
Kerr said she uses some of the monetary donations to buy meat and other items at Aldi supermarket. Good items to donate are cereals, staples, canned goods, and personal hygiene items.
The Parker pantry also sometimes helps with electric bills. For more information on the Parker pantry, call Kerr at 913-898-2335.
Pleasanton food assistance
In Pleasanton, several churches offer help for food assistance. The Assembly of God Church has a food pantry that is by appointment only. Pastor Cary Coffey said that because of the stigmatization of attending a food pantry, it is easier for people to seek assistance if they can make an appointment. Call or text (913) 523-4105 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. for information or assistance.
Coffey said the pantry is open to Linn County residents, but it mostly serves residents with a 66075 zip code because, for some people in that area, it was hard for them to get to Mound City. He said that the SNAP food assistance was usually not enough to get families through the month, so he usually started having calls for assistance the third week of the month.
The Assembly of God Food Pantry receives food from Harvesters, the Assembly of God Church in Harrisonville, Mo., The Convoy of Hope (a faith-based humanitarian organization), and private donations. The panty received a major donation of food from the Pleasanton High School Food Drive.
Coffey said that donations that were needed were cash, vouchers or gift cards to Food Fair, hygiene products, razors and shaving cream for females and males, toothbrushes. The pantry makes up hygiene kits for males and females and hands them out.
At the Church of the Nazarene, Pastor David Warren said they did not have a food pantry but would help people by buying them gift certificates at the grocery store. For information, call (913) 352 6125.
The First Baptist Church also helps people on an individual basis. They also help with gasoline and car repairs.
While at present these food pantries seem to be meeting the needs of Linn Countians with a variety of resources, every one of them depends on donations from individuals and organizations. To find out how to donate to them, call the contact numbers listed.