Community food donations help those in need

Elizabeth Rogers, junior in agricultural education, and Debbie Madsen, Manhattan resident, volunteer at the Flint Hills Breadbasket separating food items into their respective categories on April 5, 2016. (Miranda Snyder | The Collegian)

The Flint Hills Breadbasket served over 23,000 people in the Riley County area last year. It would not have been possible without the 700,000 pounds of food items donated by the local community, according to the “What Does the Breadbasket do?” page of its website.

The Breadbasket not only accepts packaged and dry food items but also properly packed leftovers, Maribeth Kieffer, executive director of the organization, said.

Some of these leftovers come from K-State. All of the dining centers on campus package and donate their leftovers if the food in question cannot be repurposed, Missy Schrader, unit director of Kramer Dining Center and registered dietician, said.

Schrader said the decision to donate leftovers comes down to whether or not the food is safe and if it can be repurposed for another meal.

“There’s really two decisions we make,” Schrader said. “One, as long as it’s safe and the appropriate temperature, we will repurpose it in some way. If it’s not the appropriate temperature then we compost it. If it’s not acceptable (to repurpose), like French fries, we safely cool them down and freeze them until the Flint Hills Breadbasket comes. Most food can be cooled down and repurposed. We try to manage our food so we don’t have leftovers.”

Schrader said the program has been going on for about 10 years, and volunteers from the Breadbasket come at scheduled intervals every week to pick up food for donation.

According to the Breadbasket’s website, 23.2 percent of Riley County citizens live at or below the poverty level. While one of the organization’s goals is to make sure everyone in the community has adequate nutrition, its website states that, ultimately, it wants to enable clients learn the skills needed to be self-sufficient.

Kieffer said a key to the Breadbasket’s success is its location and accessibility.

“I’m always amazed at how the Manhattan community supports the Flint Hills Breadbasket and how much they care about those in need,” Kieffer said. “Last year we logged over 9,000 volunteer hours at the warehouse alone.”

Lori Kniffin, adviser for academic programs at the Staley School of Leadership Studies, said she also volunteers to help local organizations feed the community. Kniffin is also the adviser of the Food Recovery Network Program at K-State. It is a national organization and has been a part of the K-State campus for about a year.

The volunteer-based program collects leftover food items from the athletic training table and donates them to local churches in the community so they can incorporate them into community meals that they host, Knifflin said.

Kniffin said a lot of the volunteers are K-State students who are currently in the LEAD 212 class, Introduction to Leadership Concepts. The class also participates in the Cats for Cans campaign, where the the students collect food donations from the local community to donate to the Breadbasket.

“A lot of us here are also working to address campus hunger and campus resources,” Kniffin said.

Monday started an action week for food security on campus, Kniffin said. The week’s events will include a food engagement symposium for students and community members as well as community conversations for students to talk about food security issues.