By all accounts, Jeremy Farmer is a driven guy.
As executive director of Just Food, a Douglas County food bank, he’s put that drive into guiding an organization that’s provided almost 1 million pounds of vital supplies to the area’s less advantaged this year.
“He’s a very intense guy — he has a mission, and that mission is to feed as many people as possible,” said Andrew Yochum, store director of HyVee, 3504 Clinton Parkway, which provides food at a reduced rate and is in the process of donating coolers to Just Food.
Farmer’s efforts to re-energize Just Food have included reaching out to work with other area social service organizations and to both clients and potential donors through a social media campaign. Just Food now serves more Douglas County residents than it ever has.
“He uses his energy to bring as much to his clients as he can,” Yochum said.
‘It happens in our back yard’
Farmer said social media helps to inject that energy and community support to the nonprofit, which is an extension of the East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corporation, also known as ECKAN.
“For me, this is about getting people aware of what issues are related to hunger,” he said. “Because the statistics we look at on a daily basis are staggering.”
By one estimate, as much as 60 percent of people in Douglas County are at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level, the standard for accessibility to Just Food’s services.
While some clients “graduate” from the program through increased self-sufficiency, a mounting concern of Just Food is the number of people who are “just one pink slip away from disaster,” Farmer said.
So part of the social media campaign’s mission is to increase awareness of the issue.
“We think it happens across the world, we don’t think it happens across the street,” he said of food scarcity.
A community organization
Just Food works closely with many community organizations, including Ballard Center, Willow Domestic Violence Center and others.
Donna Reed, who volunteers with Baldwin City’s food pantry, says her organization is one that’s benefited from Farmer’s work.
“He has bent over backwards for us,” she said.
Since August, when Just Food began to work more closely with the Baldwin City service, it has gone from “getting rather bare” to giving about 100 pounds of food a week.
But that does mean she — or Farmer — gets complacent.
“He’s passionate and always wants to do better,” she said. “He has a vision — things he wants to do down the road.”
The summer months are usually the most difficult for Just Food, and November has the highest number of donations. Around Thanksgiving and Christmas, its doors are open later and many groups give special gift-basket donations.
Farmer said he sees a lot of generosity from community members around the holiday season, and hopes people sustain that spirit throughout the year.
“I want people to know that hunger is an issue,” he said, “but we’re doing something about it.”