Project Topeka to help food banks around Topeka community

Travis Perry

Enough food to equal a Ford F-150 – that’s the goal for the Washburn community. With Project Topeka well under way, the goal has been set and boxes have been set out. All that can be done by Rick Ellis, LinC and the Bonner Leaders is to wait.

Ellis, professor in the human services department, has taken the lead with the Project Topeka initiative on Washburn. He said normally it is headed by a student, but due to lack of planning, he had to step in and take over for this year. Those helping with the food drive include members of the LinC office and Bonner Leaders.

Spanning the month of February, Project Topeka is a city-wide food drive to benefit a group of food banks, including the Topeka Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army. With donation boxes spread out across not only Washburn but Topeka as well. Project Topeka’s goal is for a total of 197 tons of food, a number which they can easily be exceeded, said Ellis.

According to the Project Topeka website,, there were more than 15,000 food assistance transactions in Topeka last year. Of those in need, 47 percent were either children or elderly, and 41 percent had some kind of employment as a source of income for their family. Something many people might find surprising is that only 11 percent of those who required assistance were on a type of public welfare program.

“People would think it’s someone on public assistance,” said Ellis. “But the reality is, if you’re on public assistance, you get food stamps. It’s the working poor, that work at minimum wage or less, that are strapped.”

Ellis blamed the nation’s poor wage system and lack of jobs for much of the problem, saying we’re paid a minimum wage, not a living wage. As prices for gas, rent, food and utilities have gone up, the minimum wage has stayed stagnant, causing a problem for families already stretching their funds.

Those wanting to contribute to the food drive are encouraged to donate as many canned goods as possible to help Washburn reach its goal of 1/2 ton. The preferred donations are any canned, non-perishable food items. People are discouraged from donating items in glass jars and boxed goods. Students can also go to the Price Chopper grocery store, where a discount will be given on food purchased to go towards the Project Topeka campaign.

Ellis encouraged those who wanted to see a major change in this issue to contact Sam Brownback, state Senator, in hopes a change will be made in the nation’s minimum wage, and additional effort will be put into creating and keeping jobs in the US. And for those people who find it hard to get out and serve their community, he said this is a great way to contribute and give back.

“It feeds hundreds, if not thousands of people per day,” said Ellis.