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Johnson County Government collects nearly 145 tons of food for area food pantries

Johnson County Government collects nearly 145 tons of food for area food pantries

Johnson County’s 2018 Feed the Need campaign is providing almost 145 tons in food donations and cash to benefit seven local food pantries. Results of the Feed the Need campaign were announced Thursday, Sept. 6, to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) by Ellen Wernicke, director of the county’s Department of Emergency Management and Communications and chair of the 2018 campaign. The announcement coincides with September being Hunger Action Month, locally and nationally.

“Our annual Feed the Need campaign is very important to our local food pantries and our residents of all ages in need,” Wernicke said. “Our employees have continually made a difference in feeding the needs year in, year out 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, Wernicke announced the 2018 campaign collected 289,765 pounds of food, both in actual food donations and cash totaling $71,620. A dollar donation represents four pounds of food. Each of the food pantries benefitting from Feed the Need received $7,162 for use in providing food supplies to eligible Johnson County residents.

Three of the food pantries are in multi-service centers at Mission, Lenexa and Gardner operated by the Department of Human Services. In 2017, the food pantries served 1,067 households, providing 2,595 services. The Feed the Need campaign also assists 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 never goes away in Johnson County with food donations and collection drives occurring year round.

“Our Human Services’ pantries are in need of food right now. Our shelves are bare,” Brandy Hodge, community relations manager, said, adding, “So are other local pantries.” As an example, she noted a recent news story about Shawnee Community Services also needing food donations.

The Johnson County Food Policy Council cites food insecurity as a growing concern in Johnson County.

“More than 60,000 of Johnson County residents 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 household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods,” she said. “Almost 60 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, 21 county departments/agencies received tonnage awards, ranging from less than one to 36 tons, in their collections to the Feed the Need campaign.

The Department of Treasury and Financial Management/ Department of Motor Vehicle received both the Chairman’s Award for collecting the most food (36 tons) and the Commissioners’ Plaque for the best average per person collection (627.6 pounds per employee).

The recipient of the Rick Beckwith Cup was the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office for having the highest percent of increased collections from the previous year. In 2018, the office collected 21,240 pounds, an increase of 13,834 pounds from the previous year. The annual award honors Beckwith, a longtime Facilities Department employee who was an active participant in Feed the Need campaigns until his death in 2004. The county has dedicated all future Feed the Need campaigns in his memory.