Just Food pantry to remain open thanks to $80,000 in donations
- on April 28, 2011
In February, Douglas County food pantry leaders appealed to the community for financial help.
They needed $100,000 in donations to continue operations or the Just Food pantry faced closure.
Thanks to $80,600 in donations and $30,000 in unexpected federal grant funding, the pantry will remain open. It is financially secure for its current fiscal year, which started April 1, and even into the next one.
“The outpouring of community support has been overwhelming,” said Aaron Heckman, chief operating officer of ECKAN, which oversees the pantry. “We are incredibly grateful.”
The East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corp., commonly called ECKAN, is a community action agency that provides a variety of services for low-income residents in nine counties, including Douglas. The food pantry, formally called Just Food, is a program of ECKAN. In March, it served 1,738 individuals, of whom 37 percent were children.
Heckman said all of the community donations will be used to cover operational costs, which are $139,000 annually. ECKAN also will be able to hire a full-time coordinator — a position that has been vacant since last summer because of budget shortfalls. Here’s a breakdown of where money is spent:
• $83,700 — Two full-time staff positions.
• $29,500 — facility expenses such as rent, equipment and maintenance.
• $14,300 — utilities, phone and Internet service.
• $8,000 — office and janitorial supplies, printing and postage.
• $3,900 — vehicle costs.
Heckman also just learned that the federal Community Services Block Grant was only cut by 3 percent instead of the 50 percent that he had anticipated. So, Just Food will receive a $30,000 grant, and Heckman is hopeful that the pantry will be able to match it.
“We have applied for a number of grants that haven’t been funded and currently have a list of several more we will be pursuing in the near future,” he said.
Just Food also has formed an official advisory board with 20 members that meets monthly. It is working on a three-year sustainability plan.
Heckman said board members have been studying the Flint Hills Breadbasket, a pantry that has been serving Manhattan for more than 20 years. It serves about the same number of people, but has a $300,000 annual budget and four full-time staff members. It receives no city, state or federal funding. It relies on foundation grants and private donations. It has an annual event, The Mayor’s Holiday Food and Fund Drive, which raises about $150,000.
Heckman said Just Food likely will start an annual fundraiser as well. To be sustainable, he expects private donations will need to be about $50,000 annually.
Just Food is planning to have an open house in May to thank the community. Heckman said the board is talking about the pantry’s future instead of its closure because of the support.
“Everyone associated with Just Food has been absolutely blown away and so appreciative,” he said. “I think most of all it has shown how caring and committed Douglas County residents are to helping their neighbors and it has reaffirmed the value of the hard work all of the volunteers and staff are putting into Just Food.”
HOW TO HELP
Just Food is a Douglas County food program that serves about 1,500 people each month.
It is part of the Harvesters Community Food Network in Kansas City, Mo., and is able to obtain nonperishable and perishable items at a reduced cost. It can provide a complete meal for 74 cents. The program also gets donations of fresh produce from Douglas County farmers and the Lawrence Farmers’ Market.
To help, you can donate money, food or time.
Monetary donations can be made online at www.justfoodfund.org or by mailing a check to Just Food at 1200 E. 11th St., Lawrence 66046.
For more information, contact Just Food at 856-7030 or visit its website at www.eckan.org/justfood.