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Johnson County is going to bat against hunger in the Johnson County community during its 2012 Feed the Need campaign.
The County Government’s annual food drive officially begins with a kickoff celebration from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 13, on the square between the Johnson County Courthouse and the Administration Building in downtown Olathe.
The theme for the public fund-raising, food-collecting celebration is Johnson County “All Star” event to commemorate the baseball All-Star Game on July 10 at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, home of the Royals. The kickoff event features a variety of booths offering food items, games, craft sales, drawings for prizes, and donation opportunities.
The dunk tank will return to test the skills of softball throwers, ranging from stellar to cellar, and feature the thrills and spills of platform sitters who will take turns on the platform above the tank of water. Participants include county department directors and three members of the Board of County Commissioners – Sixth District Commissioner Calvin Hayden, Fifth District Commissioner Michael Ashcraft, and Fourth District Commissioner Jason Osterhaus.
The 2012 campaign goal has been set at 186 tons of food in either cash or food donations. Each donated dollar is roughly equivalent to four pounds of food.
“Feed the Need is an important fund-raising campaign for Johnson County Government and serves an important role in the Johnson County community,” Walt Way, director of the Johnson County Department of Emergency Management and Communications and co-chairman of the 2011 campaign, said. “There is a critical need to keep up with increasing requests for food assistance at our local food pantries by citizens and families in need. Unfortunately, it’s a need that’s not going away.”
Michael Meadors, campaign co-chair and director of the Johnson County Park and Recreation District, agrees.
“Our pantries can always use food; the shelves are especially bare over the summer,” Meadors said. “Summer is the most difficult time for our food pantries. We experience a decline in food donations and school children are home for the summer, so parents are responsible for providing three meals a day. During the school year, many of our children receive free or reduced breakfast and lunch at school.”
According to a recent report by United Community Services (UCS) of Johnson County, Last school year, more than 21,000 Johnson County public school students in the last school year participated in the Federal Child Nutrition Program. The countywide participation rate was 23 percent with rates at the Shawnee Mission and Gardner-Edgerton School Districts at approximately 33 percent. In the 2002-2003 school year, fewer than 8,000 students, or 16 percent, participated in the program.
The UCS report indicated that nearly 36,000 Johnson County residents had incomes below the federal poverty level. That’s about $22,300 for a family of four. More than 1 in 6 county residents is classified as low-income households, or approximately 100,000 people.
“We all know the importance of the county’s Feed the Need campaign to the hungry in our community,” Meadors said. “We traditionally provide about a third of the annual food distributed by the food pantries through this effort.”
“Our workforce is a reflection of the community we serve,” Way added. “It shows we care.”
All donations collected in the food drive will benefit 10 local food pantries serving eligible Johnson County citizens. The pantries include:
- Blue Valley Multi-Service Center (Overland Park);
- De Soto Multi-Service Center;
- Spring Hill Multi-Service Center;
- North-Central Multi-Service Center (Lenexa);
- Roeland Park Community Center;
- Gardner Multi-Service Center;
- Shawnee Community Services;
- Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas; and,
- Salvation Army and First Christian Church, both in Olathe.
Six of the food pantries are located in multi-service centers operated by the Johnson County Department of Human Services. Last year, the six pantries provided food assistance to 2,098 households and served 14,010 individuals.
According to the Mid-America Assistance Coalition, food pantry services by Johnson County charities and agencies, including the multi-service centers, served 8,857 households, totaling 28,832 individuals, in 2011.
Johnson County’s Feed the Need started in 1987 with one county department and the collection of less than one ton of food. County Government has collected more than three million pounds of donations for local pantries since the program began.
The county has been a leading participant in the annual metropolitan Feed the Need campaign since 1988. Feed the Need is a regional effort coordinated by the Mid-America Regional Council, the Mid-America Assistance Coalition, and Harvesters International.
More information is available by contacting Walt Way, Director of the Johnson County Department of Emergency Management and Communications, at (913) 826-1010 or WWay@jocogov.org or Michael Meadors, Director of the Johnson County Park and Recreation District at (913) 894-3310 or firstname.lastname@example.org. They serve as co-chairs of the 2012 Feed the Need campaign.