Child poverty level rises in Kansas

More Kansas kids are going hungry.

According to new figures from the Governor’s Task Force on Reducing Childhood Poverty, the number of children living in poverty has doubled in the past 13 years.

The task force says nearly one in five kids live below the poverty line.

In the Topeka area, groups are working to make sure every child is fed.

“We have definitely seen an increase in parents coming to us saying that they are financially struggling,” says Dawn McWilliams with the Topeka Boys & Girls Clubs.

She says more and more kids don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

“Between 93 and 95% of those kids are eligible for free or reduced lunch and that speaks to the poverty level of those kids,” says McWilliams.

Meals there come from USD 501 until summer school is over July 8th. After that, the Boys & Girls Clubs will start their new partnership with Harvesters food bank until August.

“They’ll actually be providing us with the ability to provide kids with a continuum of a well balanced meal for breakfast, as well as for lunch,” McWilliams says.

Harvesters is also part of the Back Snack program, which has two full days worth of meals in it so kids don’t have to go the whole weekend hungry. They estimate they deliver about 1,000 backpacks home with kids each week in the Topeka area alone.

“Studies have shown that children that go without food over the weekend, it takes them until Wednesday afternoon to catch up cognitively and physically with their counterparts,” says Jannett Wiens, Constituent Relationship Manager at Harvesters.

The problem spreads beyond the cafeteria at the Boys & Girls Clubs.

“We definitely have seen an increase of children in the past few months and it actually started before summer,” says Tim Hall at the Salvation Army.

“It is a community wide issue,” McWilliams adds.

She hopes the new partnership will provide these kids, who are so eager to learn, the means to do so.

This is the first year the Topeka Boys & Girls Clubs has every spot in its summer program filled.

Right now, more than 30 kids are on the waiting list.

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