Need Still Strong for Food Bank

A Year Into COVID: Food Banks Still Filling a Need

By Peggy Bair

It’s been a little over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic put the world in a tailspin, closing down businesses, schools, homes and even parks. As the past two months have seen a ramped-up vaccination campaign, people are slowly starting to have some hope again that normal is coming back – even though it’s likely going to be a “new normal.” For plenty of people, life is far from back to normal, though. The collateral damage from evictions, long-haul COVID and extended job loss are lingering issues that require continued relief efforts.

HeartKC will continue to feature stories of those whose lives have been severely impacted by the sickness and financial devastation the pandemic caused. At the same time, however, as unemployed continue to piece their lives back together and many businesses re-emerge in attempted recoveries, we also take a look at how people in communities simply saw the needs and stepped in to provide relief.

Dave Vodarick, Commander VFW Post #12003 helped distribute food boxes Saturday, March 27, 2021 at the parking lot of St. Francis De Sales in Lansing, KS. The Post is partnering with Second Harvest in distributing the food boxes from January through about October, 2021, Vodarick said.
©2021 Photo by Peggy Bair/HeartKC
Two food boxes are in the bundle. This week’s smaller food box contained a variety of canned goods, milk, boxed pasta, instant potatoes and corn bread mix.
The box contents vary from month to month.
©2021 Photo by Peggy Bair/HeartKC

On fourth Saturdays every month starting in January, 2021, VFW Post #12003 in Lansing, KS began a food distribution for veterans, military and their families. However, the food boxes are provided – no questions asked, no ID required – to community members who come by the distribution sites.

“We just want to make sure people get what they need,” said Post Commander Dave Vodarick, of Lansing.

They also provide food to veterans at the domiciliary at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Veteran’s Administration in Leavenworth.

The Post is working with Second Harvest in St. Joseph, MO to provide the distribution of 55-72 food box bundles each month.

The pandemic created an uptick of need for food distribution as people became suspended from their jobs. With unemployed people in Kansas still having issues with returning to work in some sectors and a slow payment response time from the Kansas Department of Labor, the pressure on food banks continues to be strong.

Brian Nunes and Wendy Vodarick load food boxes Saturday, March 27, 2021 as a part of the VFW Post #12003 food distribution. The distribution is the fourth Saturday of every month from 9-11 a.m. at St. Francis de Sales in Lansing, KS. ©2021 Photo by Peggy Bair/HeartKC

The unusual thing about the “pandemic poverty” effect is that it has stricken people for whom a food distribution may be first time occurrence.

“I’ve had that comment multiple times,” said Vodarick. “‘We didn’t really want to do this but we know it’s time to reach out for help.’ That’s not an uncommon thing we’ve heard in the past three months.”

The distribution did, however, have a positive impact on reviving the VFW Post 12003 members to get active again, said those present on Saturday. COVID had thrown them into only having virtual meetings. But they started meeting in person again and “We’ve had a fairly decent turnout for the size of post we are,” said Jim Fricke, VFW Post 12003 Trustee.

From left is VFW Post Senior Vice Commander Brian Nunes, Trustee Jim Fricke, Adjutant Wendy Vodarick and Commander Dave Vodarick. The volunteers distributed between 55-72 food bundles each month in the Lansing, KS area. ©2021 Photo by Peggy Bair/HeartKC

“I think COVID had a big impact on people getting out and participating in VFW,” said Brian Nunes, Senior Vice Commander.

“There are people [in the Post membership] who want to go out and do things besides just show up and be at meetings,” Fricke said.

The larger food box includes milk, canned goods, pasta, oats, canned meats, lentils and soy nuts this distribution. The contents of the boxes vary from month to month.
©2021 Photo by Peggy Bair/HeartKC

Two boxes were distributed this week. Wendy Vodarick, Post 12003 Adjutant, said the contents of the boxes vary. This week, there were some traditional Easter dinner items.

Second Harvest in St. Joseph received $359,288 from the $5 million in CARES Act funding for food distribution that the state of Missouri received. Leavenworth is a part of the St. Joseph, MO Second Harvest distribution center.

“Receiving assistance can be hard for people but these are tough times,” said Vodarick. “In many ways, it reinforces how a community can pull together to overcome hardship.”