Food Insecurity

Several Local Resources Help Elderly, Families Make Ends Meet

By Deb Hadachek Telescope News

The face of a regular client at the Republic County Food Bank may look different than many people imagine.

“Right now we have 100 families in our Caring Neighbors program,” says Carol Rauch, director of the Food Bank, located at the First UnitedMethodist Church, 2013M ST, Belleville. “So many of those are elderly.”

Caring Neighbors provides a regular, bi-monthly package of commodities to clients enrolled in the program. On the alternate months, clients are encouraged to participate in the distribution of government commodities at the Republic County 4-H Building.

In January, the Republic County commodities distribution served 157families which included 376 individuals.

The US Department ofAgriculture, which administers the Supplemental Nutrition AssistanceProgram (SNAP, which replaced the food stamp program) says the characteristics of SNAP households in the 1st Congressional District of Kansas, which includes RepublicCounty are:

  • 29 percent have more than one person over the age of 60.
  • 46 percent include children.
  • 50 percent contain a disabled individual.

Janet Heyka, who volunteers to help distribute government commodities says those percentages reflect what she sees of people who use food services in Republic County.

“Guessing from those I see coming to the 4-H building to pick up commodities in Belleville, I believe your statistics are in the ballpark,” she says.

Food for the commodities distribution is purchased by the USDA depending on the preferences of states and market availability says the USDA. The amount of food each State receives out of the total amount of food provided is based on the number of unemployed persons and the number of people with incomes below the poverty level in the State.

Recipients sign a statement declaring that their monthly income is at or below the level required by the Kansas Department of Children and Families, which administers the program in Kansas.

The most recent local distribution for the Belleville area was last week. Other Republic County communities have their own organized distributions. Items in the March distribution will include figs, mixed fruit,green beans, pinto beans,long grain rice, beef stew,split peas, vegetable soup, Great Northern beans, fresh apples, fresh oranges, tomato sauce,frozen chicken, frozen pork loin roast.

Food Bank supplements
The amount that clients receive at the bi-monthly commodities distribution may determine whether they access the Food Bank in the alternate months, Rauch says

“If they get a lot from commodities, one elderly person can’t eat thatmuch in a month,” shesays.

Rauch says many ofthe people over the age of65 enrolled in the Caring Neighbors programhave only Social Securityincome.

In January 65 familiesreceived Caring Neighbors packages from theFood Bank. In Augustthat number was 81 families with 166 people; inOctober, 55 families/125people received food.

Rauch said Caring Neighbors families rangein size from one to sixpeople. People must beresidents of RepublicCounty to access the services of the Food Bank, she said.

The Food Bank also provides emergency foodassistance to householdsnot enrolled in the CaringNeighbors program onetime a month. If an individual or family accessesthe Food Bank threemonths in a row, they areconsidered for enrollmentin the Caring Neighborsprogram, she said.

“The demand is increasing,” says Rauch, who has been director of the Food Bank for11 years. “When I first started, we had 60 families enrolled in CaringNeighbors.”

All the food that stocks the shelves in the Food Pantry is donated by Republic County residents, Rauch says.

“We do not get any government help,” she says. “It is strictly the good people of Republic County.

“If we are running short on food, I email the pastors of the churches in Republic County, and the people of Republic County always come through.“I feel so blessed to live here.”