Johnson County’s Fun Fest feeds a growing need for food

Feed the Need campaign helps to stock shelves at local food pantries

Submitted by Gerald Hay
Johnson County Government

With the goal of stocking 164 tons of food in Johnson County food pantries, County employees will launch their annual Feed the Need campaign with a kickoff event scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, on the County Square in downtown Olathe.

The event, open to the public, will serve as a donation drop-off site as well as offering games, drawings for prizes, food booths, and a dunk tank. Feed the Need is the County’s annual food drive and is supported by its 3,800-plus employees.

The campaign goal has been set at 164 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,” District Attorney Steve Howe, the 2013 campaign chairman, 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.”

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;
•    Northwest Multi-Service Center, De Soto;
•    Spring Hill Multi-Service Center;
•    North-Central Multi-Service Center, Lenexa;
•    Northeast Multi-Service Center, Roeland Park;
•    Gardner-Edgerton 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 pantries provided food or food vouchers to 2,242 households with 12,681 individuals. In the first five months of this year, the pantries provided food assistance to 811 households, serving 2,957 individuals.

Howe points out local food pantries can always use food, but the shelves are especially bare over the summer when food donations usually decline and school children are home for the summer, making parents responsible for providing three meals a day.  During the school year, many children receive free or reduced breakfast and lunch at school through the Federal Child Nutrition Program.

In fact, hunger is on the rise in Johnson County. The number of County students eligible to enroll in the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program has tripled over the last decade, now totaling more than 23,000. The countywide participation rate has grown from 1 in 10 in the 2002-03 school year to 1 in 4 in the 2012-13 school year.  Shawnee Mission School District had the highest participation rate, involving 10,111 students. The Olathe School had 7,715 students in the federal nutrition program.

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.

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