KANSAS CITY, Ks. — With kids out of school and many people struggling to pay bills amid record unemployment, there continues to be a growing need in the Kansas City area for food — and Harvesters Community Food Network is trying to fill the gap.
Long before the New Bethel Mobile Food Bank in Kansas City, Kansas, opens on the first and third Wednesdays each month, hundreds of people have been known to line up in advance.
For Wyandotte County, the food insecurity rate has increased from 15% to 21% during the COVID-19 pandemic. For children, the rate has ballooned from 23% to more than 32%, which means nearly one in every three children in Wyandotte County is at risk for hunger.
Wyandotte County and Henry County in Missouri (30.5%) have the highest rates for childhood food insecurity among the 26 counties Harvesters serves.
"The need is so great," Broderick Crawford, one of New Bethel Church Food Pantry’s organizers, said. "We're averaging over 175 to 200 cars."
As the cars lined up, folks waiting inside their cars for food made note of how scared they are regarding food insecurity during the pandemic, "Everything just can't stretch,” one woman in line said.
"Wyandotte County was one of the highest food insecure counties in our service area previously, so of course just adding a pandemic and the issues that of come as a result of that, the economic issues would indicate that food insecurity would be even greater in that county now as well,” Harvesters Communications Specialist Sarah Biles said.
Biles said the food supply chain issue that Harvesters and many grocery stores across the country dealt with recently has bounced back back, thanks in part to the federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
“The program was developed to help farmers and food industry people who had previously supplied restaurants and schools and didn't have that avenue to supply food too,” Biles said.
The program has already brought in roughly 2 million pounds of food to the Kansas City area, but Biles said the work is far from over.
"The need is not going to end tomorrow," she said. "In fact, it could get worse. We know many schools are not going back in-person, which means they are not going to get those breakfasts and lunches."
Since the pandemic began in March in the region, Harvesters has distributed 5 million more pounds of food compared to this same time last year.
“That's why we're out here, because there's not enough money and we just don't have anything or anybody to try to help, we need to help,” another woman waiting in line for food at New Bethel said. “We appreciate the help."
Harvesters has pantries and mobile distribution sites available throughout the KC area.
To help those in need, Harvesters suggests:
- Donating non-perishable food items in the No School, No Lunch barrels stationed around town at Price Chopper locations
- Donate money
- Volunteer your time
"We can't take a lot of volunteers right now, so every single one we can take we need,” Biles said.
For every dollar given, Harvesters is able to provide three meals.
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