July 29, 2014

Supportive community helps keep local food bank stocked for holidays

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
The Gardner Edgerton Multi-Service Center isn’t feeling the effects of changes to Kansas’ food stamp policies. Joanne Haworth manages the center in Gardner, which serves as a food pantry and resource for local families in need.
“The families we’re serving now are voicing their frustration with it, but we are used to seeing a high amount of requests. At this time of year, it’s kind of normal to see more people in here,” Haworth said.
State officials announced changes to food stamp eligibility in September. The changes shortened lifetime limits for welfare recipients. Eligibility requirements also now consider incomes of live-in boyfriends and girlfriends. Able-bodied food stamp recipients without dependents now are also required to work at least 20 hours per week in order to continue receiving food stamps. Officials anticipate the measures will save millions in funding.
The new rules required adults receiving food stamps to find work or enter a federally-approved job training program within three months of Oct. 1. Adults who lose jobs are eligible for food stamps for three months every three years.
For now, Haworth said the local food pantry isn’t seeing the effects, but that could change.
“Right now, we’re steady,” Haworth said.
The Multi-Service Center assists between 100-125 families in Gardner and Edgerton each month.
“The summer months are really busy because of higher utility bills,” she explained.
Summer is also a more difficult time to get food donations in the door, Haworth said, but the Gardner and Edgerton community is very generous.
“This is a wonderful community – both Gardner and Edgerton,” she said. We are doing very well in terms of inventory. Donations are daily right now. This time of year it’s just that feeling. It’s wonderful. It really is cool to see how many people come together to help.”
She encourages groups who want to assist the food pantry to schedule food drives in the spring or summer.
“We have a dry spell about February or March,” she said.
The center used to be involved in holiday-specific programs, but the cities have take over with Christmas for Children programs to assist in gift-giving. Haworth said the multi-service center focuses on keeping the lights on, keeping food in the cupboards and directing families to resources that can also assist.
“We spend a lot of our time with clients,” she said. “We’re not just doing food. We’re doing a lot of other things, trying to help families put it all together so they can achieve self-sufficiency.”
The local center is blessed by the support it receives from the community, she said.
“Schools, churches, businesses, families – we’ve just had a tremendous response to helping us serve those in need. We really could not do this without the support of this community,” she said.
Those wanting to donate or those needing assistance can contact the multi-service center Monday through Friday at (913)715-8980.

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