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Helping those who can’t make ends meet

The little boy looked at the pack of food and had it all planned out.

“I’ll eat this on Saturday,” he said, eyeballing some of the food inside. “And I’ll eat this on Sunday.”

Sister Berta Sailer of Operation Breakthrough remembers how the boy — about 9 at the time — was mature and matter of fact about the BackSnack he gets every week.

“He knew he didn’t need as much food during the week, because he eats two meals at school,” Sailer says. “But on the weekends, he knew he needed more. And he needed food for his little sister.”

Every day, Sailer sees hunger. Parents work to provide for their children, she says, but in minimum-wage jobs it’s tough to cover rent, utilities, gas and food.

Some moms who go to Operation Breakthrough can’t pay to have electricity at home. Others live in cars. In both cases, BackSnack food is vital.

During a week this past summer, one mom had her two children, ages 2 and 3, at Operation Breakthrough during the day. After she finished her shift at a fast-food restaurant, she’d pick up her girls and the family would sleep overnight at a bus stop in the Power & Light District.

“She never missed a day at work,” Sailer says. “She’s not lazy. Our moms work hard, but if you’re making eight bucks an hour, paying for transportation to work, I don’t care if you’re a budgeting genius, you can’t do it.”

Every day, Operation Breakthrough hands out food to families who don’t have enough. Recently, a mom with a 17-month-old at home called and said the two hadn’t eaten for a whole day. Both were hungry.

“We fixed them some food,” Sailer says. Inside the bag was a note that read, “Come back when you need more.”

The way Sailer sees it, 90 percent of the people in Kansas City don’t know the extent of childhood hunger.

“They do care, they just don’t know,” she says.

The remaining 10 percent, Sailer says, just won’t get it, no matter what anyone says.

“Our job is to educate the 90 percent who don’t know,” she says. “We have to keep getting the word out.”

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