MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNT) – The food you’re eating for dinner tonight may be thanks to a local nonprofit that’s working to reduce food insecurity.
Formed just two years ago, the Food and Farm Council is a city and county appointed-15 member advisory council that looks at the gaps, needs and challenges in the food system and tries to come up with solutions to make it easier to access local and healthy food.
The council has 14 Blessing Boxes scattered throughout Riley County. The small outdoor food pantries are stocked with shelf-stable food and personal hygiene products.
The Blessing Box Initiative is just one of the Food and Farm Council’s many initiatives and has grown during the pandemic.
“Just to reach out to the community to know they’re there,”
“Just to reach out to the community to know they’re there,” said council member Sharolyn Jackson. “If you can help, put something in and if you need something, feel free to take something out.”
The Food and Farm Council works with 50 partners within the food system to focus on food insecurity, waste reduction and education.
Ericka Bauer is the hospitality & management instructor at K-State. In August, she was approached by the Food and Farm Council to help cater for the Konza Student Table. They provide weekly meals every Wednesday for around 450 students.
“The university has been a big part of my life in coordinating how do we do things better and the university has so many resources to connect them with the community,” said coordinator Vickie James. “It just seemed like the right time and place to connect K-State with the community to better our food system.”
Bauer said she took that as an initiative to help her students support the community.
“I’ve heard stories from students coming by saying, ‘Hey thank you for doing that, you know, it really helps me out each week’ because they’re able to take that money that they would normally spend on that meal and put it towards a bill that they have to pay,” Bauer said.
Bauer said the Konza Student Table is benefiting her students inside and outside the classroom.
“With Vickie James, she’s come over and started an initiative and it’s working,” Bauer said. “Most initiatives during this time are hesitant to continue on and this one itself is prospering in a good way for the students of the university that are taking my class as well for those students that are receiving the meals.”
The Konza Student Table is held at 5:30 p.m. every Wednesday at St. Isidore’s Catholic Student Center.
Kitchen Restore is another one of their initiatives. They distribute kitchen items through nine partner agencies in the community that identifies families who are in need of a starter kitchen set. The restore part of the initiative is they ask for donations of kitchen items that are gently used. They use also use cash donations to fill out the starter kits.
One of the plans for Kitchen Restore is to emphasize education on how to prepare nutritious meals and make people’s money stretch further.
The Food and Farm Council’s new website shows where you can find free meals, Blessing Boxes, how to buy local and even information on how to get to those locations.
“We knew that it was an issue before this, but when COVID hit it just escalated,” said council member Maureen Olewink. “And I think that particularly with the website and some of the ways we have connected people that are already working in this area…I’m hoping that we will make a difference in having food available to people around the area.”
To learn more, click here.