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Less than one can per person: Operation Holiday says it needs a lot more donated food

Chuck Graber sorts canned food items at the Operation Holiday headquarters at Towne West on Thursday. The organization says that their donations, especially food items, are down significantly this year.
Chuck Graber sorts canned food items at the Operation Holiday headquarters at Towne West on Thursday. The organization says that their donations, especially food items, are down significantly this year. The Wichita Eagle

A Wichita charity that provides food and winter clothes to people in need during the Christmas season doesn’t have enough donations or volunteers.

Operation Holiday, a charity of Inter-Faith Ministries, has about 14,000 people seeking food this year. As of Thursday afternoon, its warehouse at Towne West Square had only about 10,000 food items.

“That’s less than one can per applicant, or box,” said Ashley Davis, director of Operation Holiday. “We typically have four to five times this (at this point).

“We always do some last minute pushes as we find out we don’t have enough peanut butter, or we don’t have enough canned fruit. But this year, oh my gosh, this is all we’ve got. We don’t have enough of anything. We’re going to be facing some tough decisions in the next few days about how much we can allot per family or per household.”

Families likely won’t have as much variety in food choices and also will receive less of it, Davis said.

“It’s a little bit like going to the grocery store in years past, but I just don’t see that happening with the amount that we have at this stage,” she said.

The charity typically serves between 11,000 and 15,000 people from low-income households. About 80,000 to 100,000 food items are given out each holiday season.

 

Culinary students from Butler Community College cook a holiday meal using food typically found in a donation food box from Operation Holiday. (Nov. 5, 2015)

Even with the 10,000 items in the warehouse and another 20,000 expected from food bank and Dillons purchases, the charity has only about one-third of the food it typically gives out.

“We don’t have a full pallet of anything at this point,” Davis said.

What otherwise would have been a busy food-sorting area of the warehouse had only one volunteer working Thursday afternoon because there was so little food to sort.

Donations of non-perishable canned and boxed goods — including proteins, fruits, vegetables, juice, cereal and baking supplies — can be dropped off at the Operation Holiday warehouse on the west side of Towne West Square. There are also donation bins at Dillons stores in Wichita.

The warehouse is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. People can bring extra food from their pantry, but not expired goods.

In addition to the food needs, Operation Holiday needs more children’s coats and more volunteers during distribution.

Alex Reazin, volunteer coordinator for Operation Holiday, said about 100 more people are needed at Towne West to help with distribution Dec. 13-15. Open volunteer shifts are from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 1:30-4:30 and 4-6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Volunteers will help with manning a clothing or food station, keep the area stocked, help people find the items they are looking for or take bags to vehicles. Daycare is not provided, but volunteers may bring older children who do not need as much supervision.

For more information on how to volunteer, contact Reazin by email at areazin@interfaithwichita.org.

Winter clothing — especially children’s coats, hats and gloves — are needed. New and like-new blankets and winter clothing can be dropped off at In The Bag Cleaners or the warehouse. At this point, the charity only has enough blankets for about one-fourth of the applicants.

“Especially with the cold snap being earlier than previous seasons, lots of folks are turning the utilities down, so it would be nice if we could offer them blankets,” Davis said.

The charity asks for no other general clothing, in part because they don’t have enough volunteers at this time to process it.

Davis said she is grateful for those who support the charity.

“Wichita has always risen to this challenge, and it is a challenge every year, and we fully anticipate that they will again answer the call,” she said. “I’d like people to remember that this serves folks right here in Wichita. All of this stays local with families in Sedgwick County. These are our neighbors that we are helping.”

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Jason Tidd is a reporter at The Wichita Eagle covering breaking news, crime and courts.


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