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Food Bank director suspends vouchers

Staff writer

In a report Friday at the Marion County Interagency meeting in Marion, Janet Bryant, director of Marion County Emergency Food Bank, said some people are overusing the voucher program and draining the agency’s money supply.

People who are referred to the food bank for food generally are given $25 vouchers for use at local grocery stores. Bryant said the food bank served 54 families in April, and $1,325 worth of vouchers was handed out.

For that reason, the voucher program is on hold for now, Bryant said. Some families return regularly, she said, not to get food but for the vouchers. The program cannot afford that, she said.

The program originally was intended as emergency aid. People used to use the food bank once or twice, Bryant said, but now some come regularly.

Marion County Emergency Food Bank began in 1985. It operates from a room at Valley United Methodist Church in Marion. The food bank is open 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays. Eight volunteers man the food bank on a rotating schedule. Bryant said she needs a volunteer to work on the first Monday of each month. She trains each volunteer.

Recipients are referred by ministers, the Marion County Health Department, Families And Communities Together, and other agencies. At the food bank, recipients present forms providing information on themselves and their families.

Bryant said there has been an uptick in demand the past two years. She attributed the increase to unemployment, unexpected big bills, people moving to town, or summer break from school.

According to Bryant, the annual CROP Walk in Marion County used to provide funds for the vouchers but it no longer provides enough money to cover the demand.

Many people and organizations from across the county contribute to the food bank. Soup is collected on Souper Bowl Sunday. Boy Scouts, vacation Bible school collections, families donating at Christmas time, and deer hunters who provide meat are some of those who contribute. Collection boxes are available for food donations at various businesses.

Bryant said cash donations are welcome and help her keep the food bank stocked. Also, rewards club shoppers at Carlsons’ Grocery may transfer points earned to the food bank.

“The big money is wonderful,” she said, “but the regular small contributions are important.”

Bryant encouraged individuals to form teams and participate in the CROP Walk this fall.

She was excited about a new partnership Marion County is entering into with Kansas Food Bank at Wichita. Beginning June 13, Kansas Food Bank will be bringing food to Marion to distribute to the needy.

“The tables can turn very quickly for people,” she said. “This will be a great resource for them.”

More information will be made available later.

Linda Ogden, director of FACT, said she gets calls every day from families in need.

“I don’t ask questions,” she said. “I just give them their vouchers. Kansas Food Bank is worthy of our support and always needs food and donations.”

Ogden said the Family Financial Assistance Fund administered by FACT is in the red again. She said she gets at least one call every day. Many come from people who have no high school diploma, have learning disabilities, or cannot read and write, she said.

Ogden reported that FACT has a “diaper bank” that originally was stocked with $1,500 worth of diapers provided through Parents As Teachers.

Registered nurse Deidre Serene of Marion County Health Department was asked about the number of flu shots given this past season. She said the department gave out more flu shots and sprays than the year before, but the biggest problem turned out to be respiratory infections with fevers.

Serene noted that some people who could use the food bank are too proud to do so.

Jackie Volbrecht of Marion County Lake attended the meeting as a concerned citizen. She gave Bryant a check for the food bank.

“You can’t know Linda without getting involved,” she said.

When Bryant left Friday’s meeting, she left with two big boxes of food donations provided by interagency members.

The next interagency meeting will be Sept. 9 in Hillsboro.

Last modified May 18, 2011

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