Window on the West
by Mary Rupert
What is the face of hunger in Wyandotte County?
Increasingly, it can be just like you or me, according to one volunteer.
More than 400 cars showed up at a mobile food pantry last Saturday at the former Immanuel Baptist Church, now CrossRoads Family Church at 8822 Parallel Parkway, said Janice Witt, president of the local Civitan Club, which is sponsoring this effort. Witt said these people represented more than 1,000 total fed when the number of persons in the households is calculated. About 21,000 pounds of food were distributed on each of two recent Saturdays there.
“There’s a lot of people out there that need food,” Witt said, and many of them are working-class people.
The usual conversation goes like this, she said: “I have a job, I’m not poor, we just can’t afford food. I got sick or my wife is ill, or we’re both working, but by the time we pay for day care (and other bills), we can’t afford food.”
Once in a while a nice vehicle will drive through with a person inside who says, “I had a great job.” Some of the people have lost jobs for one reason or another, and can’t get help from traditional agencies because there is one earner in the family who makes too much money, she said. They’re not poor enough to get help, but they can’t feed their families, she added.
There might be some people who ask for food who don’t need it, she said. But Civitan’s local leaders decided not to do detailed checking on the families who request aid; those in line just show identification, display a document telling how many are in their household, and sign a contract stating they are in need. There is one rule, she added – no one is allowed to be rude.
“We’d rather feed 10 greedy people than miss one hungry person,” she said. “Most of these folks just need food. They don’t take more than they need.”
Some of the recipients bring donations, although donations are not required. Some bring money to help others; one woman brings a van load of soap and paper towel donations she buys with coupons, Witt said. What she needs are vegetables. Another one brings used clothing that her kids have outgrown, and the clothing goes to a thrift store at the site. She needs food.
The Harvesters mobile food pantry truck is supplying food for this Civitan effort at the CrossRoads Family Church. Drive-through food distributions from the mobile pantry are on the second and third Saturdays of the month at noon.
The need in Wyandotte County also was discussed last week at the dedication of the Catholic Charities’ Hope Distribution Center warehouse in the Argentine area by Harvesters’ president, Valerie Nicholson-Watson, who said at that event that the rate of food insecurity in Wyandotte County is 19.2 percent; about 30,000 people may not have enough food for a healthy life. For children in Wyandotte County, 27.1 percent are food insecure, she said. That represents more than 12,000 children. She spoke at a dedication for a warehouse for a larger network of nine food pantries serving a larger geographic area.
With the CrossRoads church site, Witt and Civitan had to solve a traffic problem that started with the first time the food distribution was held. When the food truck was two hours late the first day, traffic piled up around the church and went to wait at a parking lot at Providence Medical Center, according to Witt. A security officer asked the cars to leave, and a traffic jam then happened around Parallel Parkway. There was talk later at neighborhood groups about traffic problems. Then there were two times the mobile truck was on time.
The food truck was about an hour and a half late this past Saturday, and with the help of community policing, there was a plan for some cars to park on a nearby street. People were directing traffic. Everyone cooperated and things turned out well, Witt said. There were volunteers walking in these areas to make sure everything went well, she said.
“Some of the neighbors were not so happy, but the bulk of the response has been extremely positive,” Witt said.
Witt, who has brought food to the homeless under bridges in the Kansas City area previously, discovered the need in western Kansas City, Kan., has been greater than what she originally expected.
Seventy-five volunteers assisted this past Saturday at CrossRoads, not including members of the church. One group came from Liberty, Mo., and another was a group of teens from Bonner Springs, she added. The Gideons were there to help direct traffic and pass out Bibles, she added.
Besides a mobile pantry, the site has a regular food pantry that is available to people on Wednesdays. A thrift store, where persons may receive clothing, also is at the site. There are also classes offered on topics such as Kids in the Kitchen cooking skills, and learning certified nursing skills.
Persons may donate food, either canned goods or fresh garden produce, to the food pantry. Witt prefers that Civitan receive monetary donations for the food pantry because it stretches the money further – it can buy a can of corn for 13 cents or less, while individual donors will pay 50 or 60 cents for a can of food to donate.
For more information about the program or to donate, call 913-948-4040, visit Facebook.com/jwfab or Facebook.com/groups/citizensforabetterkck, or send donations to Civitan at 10940 Parallel Parkway, K280, Kansas City, Kan., 66109.
To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email email@example.com.