• Last modified 272 days ago (Aug. 30, 2023)


Fresh food program benefits local farmers and local consumers

Staff writer

Watermelon — 700 pounds of it — from Jirak Brothers Produce in Tampa is making its way to Marion County residents who need food assistance.

Kansas Food Bank is distributing locally produced fruits and vegetables, honey, meat, and dairy.

The food bank has purchased more than 17,800 pounds of produce from Jirak — including watermelons, corn, cantaloupes, and tomatoes.

“This program is through the USDA,” Debi Kreutzman, community relations manager for the food bank.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program allows the food bank to partner with farmers to provide “our neighbors experiencing food insecurity with fresh, healthy, and local produce,” Kreutzman said.

What’s especially rewarding about the program, she said, is that the food bank buys from local farmers and distributes the food to local residents.

On Thursday, people lined up at Marion’s food bank on Main St. to pick up boxes of sustenance, including a lot of Jirak Brothers watermelon.

Frank Davis, a Peabody resident, pulled up in a truck and picked up boxes of produce and other food for several people who live in Peabody and don’t have a vehicle.

LaDonna West picked up boxes for seven people in her family.

Everyone was grateful — especially for the watermelon.

Volunteers at the food bank said they served 71 households totaling 185 people Thursday.

Through Aug. 25, the food bank had served 322 households and 834 individuals through for the month, volunteer Gene Winkler said.

On average, the food bank serves 350 households per month.

It provides food to people who need it from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursdays every other week.

Volunteers — mostly senior citizens — assemble food boxes and distribute them from the food bank’s drive-through.

The USDA program started in October. The government recently announced an additional $2.5 million for the program.

The Kansas Food Bank serves dozens of counties in the state and provides food within a 400-miles radius of its distribution center in Wichita.

“There are 85 counties that we cover in Kansas. And Marion is one of them,” Kreutzman said. “Marion is near and dear to my heart since I’m from there.”

She knows some people question whether others who use the food bank need the help. Some people make snarky comments about the vehicles they see in the drive-through.

Because of that, some people who qualify for food boxes won’t get them out of embarrassment or feelings of shame, she said.

To that, Kreutzman would say “You have given to society. This is not taking away from anyone. This is a benefit for you.”

To people who might judge others for accepting help, she would say: “We’re not here to judge. We’re here to make sure that food is available for our neighbors who need it.”

Last modified Aug. 30, 2023