Just Food - Hoard No More

One of the things that has consistently bothered me about the scope of social services in the United States has been the unwillingness of agencies to work with one another to accomplish common goals. Everyone has their own agendas, motives, staff, resources...and social service agencies have become hoarders. But it's worse than the TV show. Because it's not just our stuff that we're hoarding. We're hoarding volunteers (your time), money (your hard-earned cash) and all in the name of helping people.

One of the things that I told our team when I arrived in Lawrence is that we will not be hoarders. We will give...so much that it doesn't make sense. We will leverage influence & resources to make sure that other people have enough, even if we have to suffer because of it.

It is no surprise that for many communities, including Lawrence, working together with other agencies is often difficult. Everyone has their own logo, brand, resources, ideas, etc. Everyone wants the same thing, but has different ways of getting there. So, we operate as silos, intermixing when the opportunities present itself, and the amount of waste and duplication in the system is astronomical.

Enter Just Food.

Last October, we did the Late Night in the Phog food drive. Lawrence & Douglas County was so incredibly generous (as usual) and over 2,000 pounds of food was donated. For those that don't know, we have a client services division as a part of the Just Food umbrella that, in June, served 7,047 people. (It encompasses a food pantry, mobile food pantry, daily market: where clients can come and get fresh bread and produce, and two federal commodity distribution programs.)

It would have been nice to take that 2,000 pounds of food to feed the hungry people that walk through our doors in droves. But we didn't.

We had a meeting, and the first meeting was attended last October by about 15 Douglas County agencies. I laid out the vision for what Just Food's partner services division (food distribution to partners) would be: no hoarding allowed. We will relentlessly and selflessly work our tails off to raise resources to give to Douglas County food distribution agencies free of charge. We could absolutely use those resources here. But this isn't a competition. And we are all in this together. Together, we win. Together, we lose. Together, we succeed. Together, we fail. Besides, this was the idea from the beginning.

And as a teaser, next week, I will sit down with our founder, Ann Weick, and share with you her reasons for starting Just Food. I can't wait to share that with you.

But for now...since May of this year, we have distributed more than 30,000 pounds of food to now 40 (and growing) partner agencies...FREE OF CHARGE TO THEM. This food includes produce that our friends at the Farmers Market donate, as well as the selfless giving of Mr. Voigt from Voigt Farms, the Master Gardeners, and many other farmers and gardeners. This also includes food that we have purchased at deep discounts, and food that has been donated that we have transported, sorted, stored & packed. That being said, we have distributed in 2 1/2 months nearly $50,000 worth of food to these agencies at no cost to them.

Many would say that we're crazy, and we are. But we are incredibly passionate about helping agencies with huge hearts, but a limited pocketbook make ends meet to continue to feed the hungry that come to them each and every day.

Tomorrow I'll go into more detail about what the role of Just Food as a food bank is. I encourage you to follow along the way. We are making a difference together!

Tagged: lawrence, diapers, hunger, sharing, food bank, collaboration, just food, douglas county, food, kids


Jean Robart 5 years, 11 months ago

Just Food is a godsend! I am so glad they are here in Lawrence!

Sharon Roullins 5 years, 11 months ago

I second that motion momma. I've been on both ends; I've had to use Just Foods in the past and I volunteered my time because I felt I owed them that much. Now that I'm working full-time, it's hard to make it there before they close. They are truly a blessing!

justfoodks 5 years, 11 months ago

Thank you both for your kind comments. We love what we do, and we wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

redrave 5 years, 11 months ago

Jeremy, non-profit agencies in Lawrence have/do/will continue to work together to provide services free-of-charge. Your enthusiasm is evident yet your comment about agencies working as "silos" is not the norm in this community.

Marilyn Hull 5 years, 11 months ago

As a funder, we tend to see the silo behavior when it comes to competing for grants. Every year, our grant guidelines clearly state that we favor projects that "assist or promote collaboration among nonprofits." Yet we almost never receive an application that is based on organizations working together in deep, meaningful ways.

justfoodks 5 years, 11 months ago


Thank you for your comment. I have a tendency to think that agencies (not just in Douglas County, but all around) silo a lot more than we think. A perfect example was at our partner agency meeting on Wednesday. We had agencies that were having excesses of food items and agencies who desperately needed those items. So, we reiterated that this was the point of this Just Food network. If you have an excess, bring them in, so that those without an excess can utilize the network more effectively.

I think I would like to see it where our first inclination isn't just to keep those resources in our storehouses for a rainy day (I'm not advocating being irresponsible here), we give knowing that others will rush to take care of us should we have a need too.

The same is true with a conversation we had about volunteers. We have 40 agencies in this network. One agency was saying how many volunteers they've had this summer and how they've had to send people home. Other agencies have went without volunteers this summer. Part of not operating as a silo is sharing those resources as well.

I know the term "silo" implies that no one is working together or collaborating, and that wasn't my intention. We are working together well...but now we need to take the next step to begin to be selfless in sharing our resources so that we all win together!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.