Food is Key to a Healthy Community

By Karen Siebert

Reduce Hunger. It’s one the goals of Food Day, the nationwide celebration on October 24 to raise awareness of the importance of our food system and the significance of the policies that shape it.

But at Harvesters—The Community Food Network, we work to reduce hunger every single day of the year, right here in our community.

People are often surprised to learn just how many people are hungry and food insecure in Kansas and Missouri, right in the heart of the breadbasket.

The recently released Hunger in America 2014 study provides us with a look at just who in our community is turning to Harvesters’ network for food assistance.

  • Harvesters’ network of food assistance agencies serves 388,600 different people annually. As many as 141,500 different people receive assistance from a Harvesters agency each month.
  • 25% are children under age 18. That’s about 97,000 children receiving food assistance annually from food pantries and soup kitchens in our 26-county service area.
  • 20% are seniors age 60 and older.
  • 49% of households served by Harvesters include at least one adult who worked during the last 12 months.
  • 54% of households have had to choose between paying for food and paying their rent or mortgage at least once.
  •  37% of households have at least one member with diabetes, and 62% have at least one member with high blood pressure.
  • 27% of households have no members with health insurance, and 62% have unpaid medical bills.

Providing nutritious food to hungry people is the key to a healthier community. When we give good, safe food to hungry children, families and seniors, we are making them stronger, healthier and more capable of succeeding in school, at work and as productive members of our community.

In fiscal year 2014, Harvesters’ network distributed 44.5 million pounds of food and provided 37 million meals. And we make every effort to distribute the most nutritious food available, which last year included 10 million pounds of fresh produce.

But we couldn’t do any of it without the community’s help. If you’d like to help by giving food, money, time or voice, go to and find out what you can do to make a difference right here in your own community.

Karen Siebert is advocacy and public policy advisor for Harvesters—The Community Food Network, the regional food bank serving the hungry and food insecure in northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri. She is past-chair of the Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition Steering Committee. 

Photo Credit: Dan Videtich

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