The numbers tell of the problem.
From 2007 to 2009, the poverty rate for Kansas children increased from 14.6 percent to 17.6 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's a jump of more than 20 percent — fourth highest in the nation.
Angel Garza's eyes tell of the pain behind those numbers.
She's a single mom with two children, 15 months and 4 months old. No income.
Her welfare was cut off last year. She's trying to get on disability.
If it weren't for housing provided by Inter-Faith Ministries, Garza and her children might be homeless.
One of Inter-Faith's programs, Operation Holiday, which has helped thousands of needy families in the Wichita area with its annual food and coat drive, kicks off next week. Donations will be accepted starting Monday and continue through Dec. 11.
"If it hadn't been for Operation Holiday, there wouldn't have been any Christmas last year," Garza said Friday.
She'll apply again this year for help from Operation Holiday, along with a projected 15,000 others.
"That's kind of a guess," said Sue Castile, executive director of Inter-Faith. "We had an increase from the year before. We're going to try to have enough to meet the needs."
Operation Holiday turns 50 years old this year. But that's not the only number that keeps growing.
This holiday season, Inter-Faith has set a goal to raise $300,000 in cash and collect 100,000 nonperishable food items, plus gather as many warm coats, scarves and hats as possible for adults and children.
The money is used to purchase food vouchers, which allow families to buy perishable foods. Inter-Faith also works with the U.S. Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program that collects toys for children.
Some of the collection sites will begin accepting donations Monday, including the main one at 1801 W. 21st St.
For the first time, those wanting help from Operation Holiday will be able to apply in the evening during the week and on Saturday at some locations. To get a list of all application sites, including dates and times of operation, call Inter-Faith at 316-264-9303 or go to www.ifmnet.org.
"Many of the people we serve are working," Castile said, "but they're not making enough to meet all of their needs and expenses."
She said people who don't know where their next meal is coming from are often forced to choose between buying food or paying the rent and utilities.
And then there are the children. Nearly half of the 14,000 served by Operation Holiday last year were children.
"It impacts children in a profound way to have that kind of (food) insecurity," Castile said. "It certainly impacts education and how well they perform in school."
But while needs go up, giving is dropping.
Charitable giving in the last year is down 11 percent nationwide. Castile said she's seen a similar drop in the Wichita area.
"Some of the people who would have made some kind of donation in the past may be experiencing their own shortfalls," she said. "It's a tough economy."
But there are ways to give to Operation Holiday besides donating money and stuff.
The drive needs about 3,000 volunteer hours. Volunteers are required to go through 1 1/2 hours of training.
Garza knows well what it all means. "It's food, blankets and Christmas for my kids," she said.