Marion Food Bank explains plan to expand to commission

The Marion County Board of Commissioners heard an update on the Marion Food Bank from Gene Winkler and Gerry Henderson.

Winkler thanked the board for the utility assistance they give the food bank. The county pays for the utilities for the food bank so that they do not have to worry about that cost.

“Throughout the year of 2020, we served 2541 families for a total 6887 individual people,” said Winkler.

Winkler explained that all the food they get in has to be weighed. While much of the food is donated there are some costs. Food that comes in from the Wichita food bank costs a small amount per pound. For 2020, they received 87,627 pounds from the Wichita Food Bank although three months of that was covered by a grant and did not cost them anything.

The food bank received a total of 122,190 pounds of food last year between the Wichita food bank, churches, organizations, businesses and more.

Due to COVID-19, the food bank changed the way they run things. They have people pull up and wait in their car and then they are given preprepared bags of food (based on the number of family members) that are loaded into their car in insulated bags purchased locally with a grant. This has helped cut down on waiting times and gives more consistency in the items being given out and provided other benefits so the food bank will continue to operate this way after the pandemic ends.

“We started a year ago to build a new food bank. We got a grant approved for it last February right before COVID-19 hit and the idea just got lost with everything. So we have been saving up money from random donations and raising money all year long,” said Winkler. “We used some for a few refrigerators, but we saved the rest. At the end of this last year, coming into January, we decided to make a push to raise money for a new building. My sister, who works for the food bank organization, started writing grants. She applied to five of them and we have heard back from four of them and they have approved us so we now have a total of $182,000 in grant money alone. We haven’t heard from the last grant yet.”

The new building plans include a well designed place for people to drive up for their food and around seven parking spots for volunteers. The plans for the new building are designed to be energy efficient and streamlined in order to keep costs low. There will be a ground breaking ceremony at 10 am on May 21.

“We really appreciate the support that the Commission has given us, especially the past five years since we moved to Main Street. The support we have gotten from all over the county is something I have never seen before,” said Gerry Henderson.

The men reported that the amount of food needed during COVID-19 has seemed to go down most likely due to federal programs, but they expect the need to continue as the pandemic subsides. The two biggest needs in Marion County have been housing and food and the food bank has found that to be true with the second.

The men also praised their volunteers who are important in all of it especially unloading the food trucks when they arrive.

“We couldn’t get the quality of food we get for the price we do anywhere else,” said Winkler.

In other business, the board:

n met in executive session for employee evaluation with Weed/HHW/Transfer Station/Recycling Director Josh Housman. No action was taken.

n heard the quarterly update from Department on Aging Coordinator Gayla Ratzlaff. Ratzlaff said that Lincolnville had quit participating in Commodities but then decided to again. However, they are now unable to carry it out and will now not be able to do it.

n learned from attorney Brad Janz that they need a meeting to work through some inconsistencies in the regulations for planning and zoning.

N received updates from County Engineer Brice Goebel including roadwork being done on the Nighthawk project causing a temporary road closure on Nighthawk from 120th to 130th early next week,

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