According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Ellis County has 15.2 percent of its residents living in poverty. Kansas Action for Children reports approximately 40 percent of Ellis County schoolchildren qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. The average monthly enrollment of county children in the Kansas Food Assistance Program is 821, while 146 kids are enrolled in the Temporary Assistance for Families Program.
That we have many financially stressed in the community is a given. Unfortunately, so is the temperament in Topeka to reduce state assistance by tightening qualification standards.
As a result, local food pantries and aid programs are being utilized more and more. And it is up to the community to stock the shelves.
This past Saturday, the U.S. Postal Service in Hays picked up donations left by individuals along the mail routes. Each year, postal workers here collect an average of 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of food as part of the national Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.
"It's just a great program," said Donnie Shubert, Hays postmaster. "It helps us give back, because the Hays area and the residents support us because, you know, we're not funded by taxes or anything. So we feel like we need to give back a little bit."
While this year's amount has yet to be tallied, the Community Assistance Center has full shelves once again.
The CAC's co-director, Theresa Hill, said the Stamp Out Hunger drive is one of the center's two main food collections. Hill said supplies were "very low" prior to the latest delivery.
The Hays Community Assistance Center serves approximately 5,600 annually. Residents are allowed to shop for clothes once a month at the center, and receive up to four orders of food per year.
The reality of so many in need is unfortunate. However, due to the generosity of Ellis County residents, fewer people are going hungry.
"I think it just shows that everybody has a big heart here, and we try to take care of our own," said Lester Robben, a letter carrier who has coordinated the food drive since it started 21 years ago. "And if we see someone in need, we try to help out."
We applaud that generosity, and the efforts of the Hays postal workers. Hauling thousands of pounds of food is no small feat, particularly after thousands of pounds of mail were delivered at the same time.
The effort is worth it. Post office employees can take great satisfaction knowing fewer local children have to skip meals because nothing is in the pantry.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry