The following OpEd appeared in the Wichita Eagle on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021.
In a heartbreaking study conducted by Hunger in America, it found that households served by food pantries reported having to choose between paying for food and paying for utilities (69%), transportation (67%), medical care (66%), or housing (57%) at some point during the year.
These are choices that Wichitans should not have to make. Access to adequate food is a cornerstone of human potential and as a community we can come together to help all Wichitans put food on the table so children are able to focus in school, parents are able to perform at work, and our elderly can maintain their health.
Food insecurity has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. In 2018, one in eight Kansans faced food insecurity, according to the Kansas Food Bank. In 2020, that grew to one in six Kansans. One in four children across the state had a lack of food this year.
In June 2020 a Northwestern University study found that food needs had doubled nationally, and tripled for households with children.
Local demand mirrors the statistics above. United Way’s 211 made 10,407 referrals in Kansas during 2020 for programs that provide food and meals. Kansas Food Bank President Brian Walker reported that the food bank saw a 36% increase from last year in demand for services at pantries.
Our state motto, Ad Astra per Aspera (“to the stars through difficulties”), perfectly captures Kansas’ perseverance and drive. When John James Ingalls coined this term in 1861 he added “the aspiration of Kansas is to reach the unattainable; its dream is the realization of the impossible.”
For all of us, including our most vulnerable, having enough to eat is not the impossible. It is attainable — all we have to do is join our resources and give to those in need. Wichita is known for taking care of its own, and in this case we are striving to leave no neighbor behind.
The Eagle is partnering with the United Way of the Plains to help provide food for families. Dillons has joined the fight and will match the first $10,000 raised. They heard the call to action. Will you join?
If you’re inspired to help others put food on the table during this pandemic, you can make a donation at www.unitedwayplains.org/food, text groceries to 91999 or send a check to The United Way of the Plains, 245 N. Water, Wichita, KS 67202-1201, and write “food” in the memo line.
To get help, call United Way of the Plains at 211 for food assistance referral information.