Nearly 60,000 Johnson Countians do not know where their next meal is coming from
Johnson County’s 2019 Feed the Need campaign will donate the equivalent of 160 tons of food to seven local food pantries. Campaign co-directors Jay Leipzig, director of Planning and Paul Davis, chief – EMS director announced the campaign results Thursday, Sept. 19, to the Board of County Commissioners. The announcement coincides with September being Hunger Action Month, locally and nationally.
“Our theme this year is Neighbors Helping Neighbors, which is exactly what this effort is all about,” Leipzig said. “For more than 30 years, our employees have made a difference in helping our neighbors within Johnson County.”
Johnson County’s Feed the Need involvement started in 1987 with one county department and the collection of less than one ton of food. On Thursday, Leipzig and Davis announced the 2019 campaign collected 320,000 pounds of food, both in actual food donations and cash totaling $76,909. A dollar donation represents four pounds of food. The donations will be used to provide food supplies to eligible Johnson County residents.
Three of the seven food pantries are located at the North Central, Northeast and Southwest multi-service centers and are operated by the Department of Human Services. In 2018, the food pantries served 985 households, providing 2,097 services. The Feed the Need campaign also assists four other food pantries operated by Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, Shawnee Community Services, First Christian Church of Olathe and Salvation Army.
The demand for assistance from food pantries stays constant in Johnson County with food donations and collection drives especially needed at this time.
“This time of year, our food pantry donations take a hit while the need continues to rise. This year residents are receiving higher utility bills due to the warmer summer months. Providing food to a resident in need can help free up additional money in the household that can be used for other bills,” said Brandy Hodge, community relations manager for Human Services. “Our department appreciates the kindness and generosity of county employees who not only help stock our shelves, but also the shelves of four additional food pantries.”
The Johnson County Food Policy Council cites food insecurity as a growing concern in Johnson County.
“Nearly 60,000 Johnson Countians do not know where their next meal is coming from and are food insecure,” Renee Bryant, who oversees the council, said. “Feed the Need contributions of food, household items and financial donations help our residents fill this gap.”
The Food Policy Council is an advisory body to the BOCC and a program of the Department of Health and Environment. According to Bryant, food insecurity refers to USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.
“Many food insecure households need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods,” she said. “Sixty-one percent of our food insecure residents earn too much money to qualify for federal nutrition assistance programs and rely on our food pantries to help get them through the month.”
Also, on Thursday, 23 county departments/agencies received tonnage awards, ranging from less than one to nearly 34 tons, in their collections to the Feed the Need campaign.
The Department of Treasury and Financial Management received both the Chairman’s Award for collecting the most food (33.46 tons) and the Commissioners’ Award for the best average per person collection (576.98 pounds per employee).
The Johnson County District Attorney’s Office received the Rick Beckwith Cup for having the highest percent of increased collections from the previous year. In 2019, the office collected 30,779.92 pounds, an increase of 9,228.84 pounds from the previous year.