Just Food pantry to remain open thanks to $80,000 in donations

Nicole Dyke, forefront, and Amanda Elkins are both volunteering at the Just Food pantry on Thursday, April 28, 2011. Thanks to $80,000 in community donations the pantry — which serves about 1,500 people each month — will remain open.

Nicole Dyke, forefront, and Amanda Elkins are both volunteering at the Just Food pantry on Thursday, April 28, 2011. Thanks to $80,000 in community donations the pantry — which serves about 1,500 people each month — will remain open. by Karrey Britt

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.”

Amanda Elkins, Lawrence, helps a client Thursday, April 28, 2011, at the Just Food pantry, 1200 E. 11th. By 2:30 p.m., the pantry had served 57 families that day.

Amanda Elkins, Lawrence, helps a client Thursday, April 28, 2011, at the Just Food pantry, 1200 E. 11th. By 2:30 p.m., the pantry had served 57 families that day. by Karrey Britt

Volunteer Barbara Pitner, Lawrence, pushes a load of canned goods through the Just Food warehouse on Thursday, April 28, 2011. Just Food is moving to a bigger location this month that will allow it to store more food.

Volunteer Barbara Pitner, Lawrence, pushes a load of canned goods through the Just Food warehouse on Thursday, April 28, 2011. Just Food is moving to a bigger location this month that will allow it to store more food. by Karrey Britt


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.

Volunteer Amanda Elkins, Lawrence, moves food donations from a storage shelf in the back of the Just Food warehouse to shelves in the front. Food pantry clients get to pick four speciality items during their monthly visit.

Volunteer Amanda Elkins, Lawrence, moves food donations from a storage shelf in the back of the Just Food warehouse to shelves in the front. Food pantry clients get to pick four speciality items during their monthly visit. by Karrey Britt

Tagged: local food, poverty, Douglas County food program, hunger, Just Food

Comments

LilySiebert 7 years, 3 months ago

That is SUCH great news! Our community is pretty impressive!

Marilyn Hull 7 years, 3 months ago

Lily: I'm with you. This community is impressive.

We also need to give credit to the staff and volunteers of Just Food, and to county commissioner Nancy Thellman. Many have worked their tails off to avert a food crisis.

Now all of us need to get into the habit of giving regularly to Just Food, so that this service can sustain itself.

jestevens 7 years, 3 months ago

Fabulous! Kudos to the Just Food for not giving up, to the community for responding and for coming together to figure out a way to make this a sustainable service.

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