Wheatland Electric Cooperative recently completed a “Cram the Van” food drive, collecting 6,615 pounds of food — nearly 3.5 tons — for hungry people in Western Kansas, and also brought in $850 in cash donations, according to a press release.

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 11 stops in 10 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 Finney County, Wheatland members donated 740 pounds of food. Events in Finney County included a booth at the Women’s Fair at the Clarion Inn in September and an October event at Ron’s Market in Holcomb. All donations collected in Finney County were donated to United Methodist Mexican American Ministries (UMMAM).

Sarah Trapp, of UMMAM, said Wheatland Electric’s donation and other community food drives helped UMMAM provide food boxes to 55 families for Thanksgiving, benefitting 305 individuals.

“Amidst the struggles and hardship a family can face through difficulty, one thing that we can guarantee is together we brought families around a table where they could find joy, and set aside for a moment their worries,” Trapp said.

Shawn Powelson, manager of member services for Wheatland, said several local food banks indicated the holiday season is an especially difficult time as food banks see an increase in demand for services and struggle to keep enough food on hand.

Cram-the-Van events varied from cooking hamburgers at home football games and grilling hot dogs in front of community grocery stores to a community Halloween party complete with a food slide and pulled pork sandwiches. Using the food slide, kids were able to drop their donations down the slide and directly into the van.

Wheatland General Manager Bruce Mueller hopes to turn the drive into an annual event. Concern for community is one of Wheatland’s seven cooperative principles. Food banks are a vital part of the communities Wheatland serves, he said.

“Our goal for Cram the Van was 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. Wheatland will continue to look for opportunities to support our members and communities through programs like Cram the Van.”