- Posted July 8, 2014 by
Flint Hills Breadbasket Relieving Hunger In Manhattan, Kans.
While children enjoy long days, heat and free time of summer, some parents worry how to cover the cost of three months without reduced school lunch.
Manhattan, known as the Little Apple and home to Kansas State University, is a city of 56,000 residents. A full parking lot at the mall, newly opened Flint Hills Discovery Center and clean shopping district of down town main street make it easy to overlook the 2009 data on poverty: 35.6% of residents live below the poverty level. Manhattan’s population of poor was nearly double the state wide average of 17.9% in 2009.
Overcoming timidity and pride, first time clients to Flint Hills Breadbasket take home bread, fruit, sweets and other perishables from the front room. Valon Jones, Client Services Coordinator, refuses no one. The only requirement is a name and address to enter in the Breadbasket records.
Brandon Campbell, Warehouse Manager, uses a forklift to stack two-story shelves of food expertly organized by type and expiration date. Campbell also runs a small fleet of delivery trucks to take orders to five community churches for further distribution to families and make personal deliveries to senior citizen living centers around town.
Return clients provide proof of Manhattan residence. A utility bill will do. A pay stub proves income and employment.
Campbell also leads the ever fluctuating and overturning cadre of volunteers. From Riley County mandated community service for a speeding ticket to University fraternities directing pledge hours to the results of a priests homily on service, Campbell never knows how many workers he will have week to week.
But the workload never decreases. There are thousands of pounds of food to sort, lift, shelve, box, carry, deliver and do it again tomorrow.
Maribeth Kieffer, Executive Director of Flint Hills Breadbasket, attends monthly meetings of Riley County Social Services. Kieffer ensures other organizations and community involved churches in Riley County know about Flint Hills Breadbasket. She also takes away from the meetings information and contacts of other social services.
Kieffer indicated there are three main reasons for accessing Flint Hills Breadbasket: disabilities, social security and poverty.
Native Manhattan residents make up thirty-one percent of the poor. Twenty-three percent of disabled men and women live at or below the poverty level. Single women head forty-eight percent of the poor households. Men and women between the ages of eighteen to twenty-four far exceed any other age range measured on the poverty scale.
The warehouse, forklift, delivery trucks, staff and donations run year round with no federal, state or county assistance.
Kieffer spends much of her time in speaking engagements around Manhattan, Kans. She says it is important to make sure people understand and appreciate the results of their donations and commitments. Several Manhattan residents have left memorial donations in their wills.
The Flint Hills Breadbasket fourteen member board also help to get the word out and prepare for the once a year donation drive.
When asked about how to seek out and deal with anyone who would take advantage of the system, Kieffer indicated she tells her staff to always think about the ninety-five. If Flint Hills Breadbasket helps one hundred people on a given day and ninety-five are in honest need, Kieffer can go home satisfied and fulfilled with a good days work done.