SCOTT CITY – Wheatland Electric Cooperative recently completed its 4th annual “Cram the Van” food drive, collecting 19,332 pounds of food for hungry people in Western Kansas. Nearly matching their previous three-year total of 23,059 pounds, this year’s total of nearly 10 tons is enough by some calculations to keep a single food bank stocked for over a year. The effort also brought in nearly $2,000 in cash donations. Every donation collected in a particular community stayed in that community to benefit its local food bank.
Cram the Van lasted two months and featured eleven stops in ten different communities throughout Wheatland’s territory. Wheatland also collected donations at its seven offices and two other drop-off points in Conway Springs and Caldwell.
In Great Bend, Wheatland members donated 5,700 pounds of food, four times the amount they donated last year. This year’s strong showing was buoyed by the success of the first ever Cram the Van School Challenge sponsored by Hiss Sherman Wealth Management. Hiss Sherman offered a $1000 prize pot to the top three schools. ($500- first place, $300 – second place, $200 – third place.) This year’s winners were Central Kansas Christian Academy, Holy Family and Lincoln Elementary, respectively. Collectively, all nine Great Bend schools collected 4,600 pounds during the week-long competition.
Donations collected in Great Bend were donated to the Barton County Food Bank. Bob Essmiller, with the food bank, indicates that so far, this year they have been able to provide assistance to approximately 7,000 people. The food bank is open three days a week, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Essmiller estimates that the Cram the Van donations alone could keep the Great Bend food bank stocked through the end of the year. “We appreciate the donations provided by Wheatland and their members through the food drive. We were overwhelmed by the amount of donations this year,” said Essmiller.
“When they called to tell us how much food they would be delivering, we had to figure out where we were going to put it all. This is our harvest time, we are so grateful for the donations.”
The drive featured a big red van, covered in bright “Cram the Van” decals, which Wheatland would bring to the various community events. Wheatland challenged its members to help “Cram the Van” with non-perishable food items for the local food bank and they responded in force!
“We know from working with the local food banks over the past four years that the holiday season can be an especially difficult time for them,” said Shawn Powelson, manager of member services for Wheatland. “They see an increase in demand for their services and can struggle to keep enough food on-hand. Our annual Cram the Van food drive helps them stock up and be ready to meet that need as the Holidays approach.”
At most Cram the Van events, Wheatland served a meal and, in exchange, its members “paid” in the form of canned goods and cash donations. Cram the Van events varied from cooking hamburgers at home football games to grilling hot dogs in front of community grocery stores to a community fall festival in Scott City, complete with food slides, pumpkin decorating, s’mores roasting, pumpkin seed spitting, face-painting and hayrack rides.
Wheatland General Manager Bruce Mueller is proud of the drive that has turned into a successful annual event. “Concern for Community is one of the Seven Cooperative Principles and food banks are a vital part of the communities that we serve. Our goal for Cram the Van has been to not only collect food but to bring awareness to this great need,” Mueller said. “I’m proud of the efforts of our members, employees and trustees in supporting the local food banks across our service territory. This year’s total of 19,332 pounds is truly a testament to what we can accomplish when we all work together for the good of our fellow man.”