With the community’s help, a regional gas merchant is aiming to tackle an issue that affects all of its towns — hunger.

“We operate in nine different cities in the state of Kansas, and this is a need in all of them,” said Ted Augustine. “The nice thing is, we just need people to come fill up their tank, just like they normally would."

Augustine is with 24/7 Travel Stores, which for 10 days this month will donate 5 cents for every gallon of gasoline sold at its stores to local food banks. The event is slated to run Tuesday through Oct. 31 at 24/7 Travel Stores’ 10 locations across Kansas, in Goodland, Colby, WaKeeney, Hays, Russell, Salina, McPherson, Abilene, and Maple Hill.

The “Gallons for Good” program, now in its second year, is unique among charitable drives, said Michael Chambers, executive director for Salina Emergency Aid Food Bank.

“They don't have to buy cans, they don't have to write a check, they just have to fill up with gas, which a lot of people are doing anyway,” Chambers said.

According to Chambers, drives like the one being conducted by 24/7 Travel Stores help address hunger in ways beyond the financial.

“Many people don’t think about food insecurity in their own community; the average person doesn't have to think about where their next meal is coming from,” Chambers said. “That's not the reality for many people. Here in Salina, we serve about 15,000 people a year. Events like these raise that awareness.”

Local store heads are linchpins to the program’s success, Augustine said.

“Our managers at our local stores are a huge part of the program — they're very excited about it, as the boots on the ground out talking to their communities, interfacing with chambers of commerce and talking with the local food banks,” Augustine said. “They've done a fantastic job.”

Each food bank uses the funds raised during this event in its own way, whether for operating costs, perishable groceries or other needs. Last year, 24/7 Travel Stores donated nearly $24,000 to local food banks. It hopes to top that number this year, Augustine said.

“We set a target goal of 25,000, with a stretch goal at $30,000,” he said.

Participating food banks include Genesis Food Pantry of Sherman County, Genesis Food Pantry of Thomas County, Trego County Food Pantry, St. Joseph Food Pantry, Russell County Food Pantry, McPherson County Food Bank, Salina Emergency Aid/Food Bank, Abilene Area Food & Clothing Bank and Community Health Ministry.