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Catholic Charities Of Northeastern Kansas Reports Rising Need For Food

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Catholic Charities of Northeastern Kansas, like other organizations, is facing an increase in patrons seeking food assistance.

Catholic Charities of Northeastern Kansas is serving significantly more residents at its food pantries than in previous years.

The organization served nearly 175,000 individuals in need of food over the last 12 months. That's a 25 percent increase over the previous year.

"The economy has picked up, but a lot of people who have gotten jobs are working jobs that (pay) low wages," says Kim Brabits, the organization's vice president of program operations. "Although they're no longer unemployed, they're still (sometimes) living below 200 percent of the poverty level."

Catholic Charities is the latest organization to report higher demand. In September, the Salvation Army's Olathe food pantry said it was facing a severe food shortage. But Catholic Charities Family Stabilization Director Dustin Hardison says the organization still manages to deliver food to students and seniors in the area.

"We started a summer feeding site, which is a program that offers breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack to children who would traditionally get those through school lunch programs," Hardison says. "We're trying to do more than the standard food pantry model."

Hardison says that includes teaching families how to cook using raw ingredients rather than relying on fast food or prepared meals. He also says keeping meal programs running for students in the summer is a major goal for Catholic Charities.

Brabits says the group's pantries have also moved to a grocery store model to help cut food waste. Instead of volunteers picking out food for patrons, the patrons select food that they know they will eat. 

Still, she says they expect more people will have to rely on Catholic Charities in the coming months.

"Over the course of the next year, we'll see a lot of single individuals between the ages of 16 and 64 who do not have children who are no longer qualifying for food stamps," Brabits says. "A lot of people are working jobs that are low-wage, and they're still living below the poverty rate."

Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill or email him at cody@kcur.org.
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