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New report shows that thousands of south-central Kansas residents are food insecure

U.S. Department of Agriculture
flickr Creative Commons

Kansas Appleseed says more than 1 in 10 people in Sedgwick County are food insecure.

Thousands of people in south-central Kansas are food insecure, according to a new report by nonprofit Kansas Appleseed.

The report found that almost 15% of residents in Sedgwick County were food insecure. The rate in each of the surrounding counties was more than 10%.

“Kansans who are food insecure may not be sure where their next meal will come from and may rely on the critical support Child Nutrition Programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provide,” the report reads.

Food insecurity was worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which increased unemployment. It was also made worse due to a lack of transportation for some people and increasing barriers to food assistance programs like SNAP.

“SNAP is either too difficult to apply for or it was too difficult in the past, and so they’re not going to do it now,” said Tajahnae Stocker with Kansas Appleseed said. “Or barriers in Topeka keep the eligibility [pool] so low, and so our pool of eligibility is shrinking and shrinking every time a new, dangerous law pops up in Topeka.”

In 2015, the Kansas legislature passed more restrictions to SNAP. Enrollment for SNAP benefits decreased from more than 98,000 in 2015 to 77,000 in 2021.

Stocker said that a combination of things, including lowering barriers to receive SNAP, will help more people gain access to food.

“We need that holistic approach of transportation and policies for SNAP as well as our charitable sector,” Stocker said. “We can’t rely on one of these things to help pull us out of food insecurity in south-central Kansas.”

Kansasrecently passed a bill to eliminate the sales tax on groceries, but advocates worry that ending pandemic food assistance programs will only make matters worse.

“So we'll see a lot more organizations and a lot more groups still pulling up where we need to pull up and doing what we need to do,” Stocker said.

Kylie Cameron (she/her) is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, Kylie was a digital producer at KWCH, and served as editor in chief of The Sunflower at Wichita State. You can follow her on Twitter @bykyliecameron.