In the face of dwindling federal funding, two Douglas County food assistance programs are banding together to help distribute more commodities to local residents.
Ballard Community Services and the East Central Kansas Action Network have formed The Emergency Food Assistance Program, a federally based program that helps supplement diets of low-income people by providing food and nutrition assistance.
Beginning in November, commodities will be distributed from one location instead of three - ECKAN, 2518 Ridge Ct.; Ballard Community Center, 708 Elm; and Penn House, 1035 Pa.
Ballard Community Center and Penn House, which make up Ballard Community Services, stopped distribution of food this week, a service they have provided for more than 20 years.
Andy Brown, director of human services at Penn House, said Ballard Community Services learned it was competing with ECKAN for food. The agency, which serves six counties, receives all commodities such as peanut butter, cans of green beans and powdered milk quarterly from the United States Department of Agriculture.
"Rather than compete directly for food, we decided it would be better to join with them," he said. "A few years ago, there was a lot of funding available for it, and people were taking home large boxes of food. Recently, it's gotten to the point where we are sending people out with a small grocery sack. I'd be surprised if they made it last more than a day or two. You get a couple of cans of green beans, a large can of juice and macaroni."
The majority of residents in Douglas County already pick up food at ECKAN. Richard Jackson, the agency's executive director, said 296 households signed up to receive commodities in August. Of those, 230 picked up their package at the agency's site.
Last month, the U.S. House passed the Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Act of 2007, also known as the Farm Bill, which provides more commodities to assistance programs, but Brown and Jackson said they don't expect it to pass Congress. And that means no increases for the federal commodities distribution program.
The search for a single distribution site in Lawrence continues. Brown said ECKAN wants one that is centrally located and has adequate parking. The agency also offers delivery to homebound people.
Brown and Paul Hunt, human services director of Ballard, said clients they've talked with are positive about the change.
"Folks felt that we were doing the best thing we could for them," Hunt said. "That's the motivation here, to make sure that if it's more cost-effective for one place to do that, then that savings will end up back with the clients."