Wyandotte County has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the state of Kansas and the nonprofit and social service agency Cross-Lines Community Outreach is working to change that, while empowering the local community with their new and unique market.

Cross-Lines used to run a traditional food pantry, through which they served more than 22,000 people last year, but they realized they could do a better job of making community members feel welcome and dignified while giving them access to the food they need.

“So often, food pantries are just stuck in a basement somewhere and they’re not in a place anyone wants to go,” said Susila Jones, executive director of Cross-Lines. “We want to create a space that people want to come to and kids feel like they’re just going to a grocery store, and not like they’re going to a food pantry.”

Cross-Lines decided to deviate from the traditional pantry program and transform their old thrift store on their Cross-Lines campus at 736 Shawnee Ave. into a bright, organized, grocery store-like market with shelves stocked with a variety of foods like canned goods, pasta, tomatoes, peppers, meat, eggs, butter and more. The market also offers cleaning and hygiene products and grab and go items, easy for those facing homelessness to travel with.

Unlike the traditional pantry model where clients are handed a standard box of items, at Cross-Lines, shoppers have the ability to choose the items they want. Using assigned points based on their household size, shoppers can pick enough food for about 10 meals each month. The market also has carts that have a clicker attached, so shoppers can keep track of their points while shopping.

“There’s nothing worse than already not knowing how you’re going to feed your family and then you have to go somewhere and ask for food and then be given a box of food that you can’t eat or that your kids don’t like,” Jones said.

While Cross-Lines had a soft opening about a month ago, the market officially opened Aug. 30 and primarily serves those living at or below 150% of the federal poverty level and those struggling to access food. The market is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Staff asks members if they’re Wyandotte County residents, the shoppers’ birthday and the number of people in their household.

Marlen Hernandez, Cross-Lines Community Market coordinator said so far, shoppers have loved the market.

“We have a lot of customers that come and just can’t believe what they see – especially the fresh produce,” Hernandez said. “They’re surprised about how much they can take and the wide variety of items.”

Todd Jordan, chief community engagement officer for United Way of Greater Kansas City, volunteers at the market and described how important it is for people to not only just receive food, but also be able to choose the food they need and want.

“At the market, I don’t just see food, I see empowerment and empathy,” he said.

Rachel Russell, community engagement manager at Cross-Lines said the market needs more volunteers.

It takes about eight volunteers daily to run the operation, helping stock shelves, greeting and checking out shoppers, but Russell said they only have about three or four volunteers so far.

“We’re currently missing the mark,” she said. “We’re looking for additional and consistent volunteers.”

If you’re interested in volunteering at the Cross-Lines Community Market, email Russell: rachel@crosslines.org.

For more information about Cross-Lines, visit their website: https://www.cross-lines. org/.

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