With changes, Flint Hills Breadbasket continues to help community during pandemic

The Flint Hills Breadbasket made adjustments to how it serves the community through the COVID-19 pandemic. (Archive photo by Regan Tokos | Collegian Media Group)

The Flint Hills Breadbasket assists Manhattan residents who struggle with food insecurity year-round. With the holidays approaching, the pantry keeps its shelves full for Mayor’s Food and Fun Drive. This year, the non-profit food pantry made some changes to comply with COVID-19 regulations.

Breadbasket volunteer Debbie Madsen began volunteering at the Flint Hills Breadbasket about seven years ago and said she adjusted to many changes this year. On top of wearing masks, one of the bigger changes the pantry made is how clients receive their donations.

“The clients no longer come into the building,” Madsen said. “Now we preload boxes of dry goods, produce, dairy and meat, and when a client goes to the door we take their particulars and then bring boxes out to them.”

Instead of going once a week, clients can now go once a month to reduce the risk of exposure. Despite the less frequent visits, they still receive a month’s worth of food.

For the Mayor’s Holiday Food and Fun Drive, staff bring baskets outside for clients to load in their cars and avoid as much contact as possible. Under normal circumstances, the Flint Hills Breadbasket sets up at grocery stores to collect donations, then they have people come in to build the Thanksgiving and Christmas boxes.

To ensure the safety of everyone involved in the process, Maribeth, Breadbasket executive director, said they thought outside of the box this year to ensure people can still receive their food.

“Getting the food and making sure the people who need it get it is the most important,” Maribeth said, “Our donors are just as valuable, too, because they make it all happen.”

The Flint Hills Breadbasket distributed 205 Thanksgiving baskets this year, surpassing last year’s donations by 45.

The community helped stock the food pantry’s shelves through personal food drives at their businesses or by dropping off weekly needed donations posted on the Flint Hills Breadbasket Facebook page.

“We’ve had wonderful local individuals, as well as businesses, call us and say, ‘How can we help,’” Maribeth said. “So we’re having people that call us to do the collecting of the items we’re really in need of.”

Along with the contribution of the community, both Maribeth and Madsen agreed a lot of the success the food pantry sees during such uncertain times comes from the fellowship they create within their environment. Maribeth said they overcame many challenges together to continue.

“I love it or I wouldn’t be doing it for seven years,” Madsen said.

Madsen encourages others to join the team for a great experience while giving back to the community.

“Working with really fine people, Maribeth and her staff and all of the other volunteers is my social highlight of the week,” Madsen said. “We’re also doing wonderful work for people who need food, so for my money that’s a win-win operation.”

Manhattan resident Dylan Doud said Flint Hills Breadbasket’s efforts do not go unnoticed, especially during the holidays.

“The volunteers and staff are fully devoted to making sure families in our community can truly enjoy the holidays without the stress and anxiety of food insecurity,” Doud said. “Right now donations are needed more than ever and they are always glad to help.”

Though donations are accepted by the Flint Hills Breadbasket year-round, donations for the Mayor’s Holiday Food and Fund Drive are being accepted until December 10 and can be dropped off at 905 Yuma St. in Manhattan.

For more information about the Flint Hills Breadbasket, visit their website.