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Bob's boxes help hungry

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Black beans, macaroni and cheese, pancake mix, syrup, and tuna.

Bob Boxes from the Kansas Food Bank help seniors put some variety into their meals, without putting a dent in their checkbooks.

Volunteers gathered Saturday morning to set up a food packing assembly line at a local factory to fill 1,600 food boxes.

"The Bob Box is one of newest initiatives to help seniors in rural Kansas who experience food insecurity meaning they may not know where their next meal will come from," said Debi Kreutzman, Kansas Food Bank community relations manager.

The program started in 25 northwest Kansas counties in the fall, and so far 1,200 food boxes have been distributed, she said.

Since they are distributed in northwest Kansas, and former Sen. Robert Dole is from nearby Russell, Hays seemed an ideal location for a food packing event.

It's sponsored and endorsed by Dole because "Dole is someone seniors admire and trust," she said. "It's a way to reach out to seniors too proud to get help. Many seniors won't go to a food pantry."

Each box is estimated to hold $20 of food for seniors.

The box is distributed at no cost to health departments.

Three pallets of boxes have been distributed by the Ellis County Health Department since October.

"We deliver monthly to them. We rely upon our health nurses, our health departments to reach those seniors that are in need," Kreutzman said.

"Ellis County Health Administrator Butch (Schlyer) has been doing a great job getting those distributed to seniors in Ellis County," Kreutzman said.

The Food Bank buys the food, so the boxes have similar items "stuff they would like and (is) easy to fix," said Brian Walker, Kansas Food Bank president and CEO. "(We) include Tuna Helper, so it's not just a can of tuna, spaghetti and spaghetti sauce."

"Nothing they have to worry about spoiling -- shelf staple nonperishable foods," Kreutzman said.

The event drew Fort Hays State University students, faculty and community member volunteers.

Becca Kohl, Tigers in Service co-director at FHSU, said there was no problem finding volunteers.

"We find volunteers for all different projects. ... I think people just really want to help out the community," Kohl said.