TOPEKA, Kan. – The Topeka Rescue Mission’s initiative Operation Food Secure (OFS) will be able to provide food resources for families in need across the region.
According to a news release, it is due to a grant of up to $350,000 from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas.
The news release states the funding “will be used to purchase nutritious staples over the coming weeks so that hungry families do not have a gap in their food supply”.
According to OFS, it expected to see a pause in food resources when it appeared funding had run out for the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
OFS said that program began in May and was designed to support the agricultural supply chain, prevent food waste, and provide hunger relief.
“We were coming up on kind of a commodity cliff so to say of food that we can provide to people in the community who are struggling the most,” OFS’ Director Marissa Dake Thursday.
Then, OFS said when it appeared the funding for the program would run out, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas offered to fund.
“COVID-19 has impacted the health, safety, and economic stability of Kansans, especially those in high-poverty neighborhoods” Virginia Barnes, director, Blue Health Initiatives, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas said. “We are thrilled that our support will go to ensuring our fellow Kansans have access to the healthy food that will directly address that impact.”
“They are doing great work in our community they’re directly having positive impacts on social determinants of health specifically through this program access to healthy figures,” said Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas spokesperson Rebecca Witte.
“It’s important that Kansans are healthy and if Kansans aren’t healthy a lot of other things can come from that and we just really want to make sure that we’re supporting organizations that are doing that good work in the communities that we serve.”
“Jesus tells us if we have faith like a grain of mustard seed, we can move mountains,” said Barry Feaker, Executive Director of the Topeka Rescue Mission. “When it seemed as though Farmers to Families was ending, our team looked at each other and said, ‘If God wants us to continue marching ahead, He will make it clear.’ And sure enough, with that mustard seed’s worth of faith, we saw mountains move.”
“We are inspired and grateful to Blue Cross and Blue Shield for making it possible to ensure that no one misses a meal during this gap,” said OFS Director, Marissa Dake, “Good nutrition is the bedrock for mental and physical health. I can’t think of a better investment for our community.”
“Operation Food Secure distributed 2.3 million pounds of nutritious foods in 2020, but even more astounding is the fact that each food box has a name—a family—a story,” said Dake. “A parent facing reduced hours at work while trying to tele-school his kids; a senior citizen on a fixed income, struggling to afford basic necessities; a multi-generation family squeezing into a single home just to scrape by. Our volunteers have come to know the names and faces behind these stories and have not only gone ‘the last mile,’ but the extra mile to bring hope amid this pandemic. Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s generosity allows us to continue doing just that.”
“Every box has a story has a face has a name a family and something they’re struggling with and they’re going through and we want to show them that we are behind them that we support them and we’re looking out for them,” Dake added.
“What this grant from Blue Cross has shown us is that there are groups in this community taking notice of the work operation food secure is doing and there’s a level of confidence and trust in the method that were using neighbors helping neighbors.”
According to OFS, Over the past seven months, it has distributed 76,107 food boxes—the equivalent of 3.8 million meals—to families in the greater Topeka area facing hunger, made possible through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program.