Demand up and supplies down at pantries

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

OVERLAND PARK — No one in Overland Park will go hungry for lack of green beans. There are cans aplenty of that particular food here at the Catholic Charities Emergency Assistance Center.

But otherwise, the shelves are a bit too bare, according to Lee Weigel, food pantry manager at the Overland Park assistance center.

“My volunteers are constantly telling me there’s less food here than at any other time that they’ve volunteered,” he said.

The situation is similar at the three Catholic Charities Emergency Assistance Centers, which are located in Kansas City, Kan., Overland Park and Olathe.

Summer is always a hard time for pantries, said Kim Brabits, director of emergency assistance for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. There are two reasons why this is so.

“First, half of those receiving emergency assistance are age 19 and younger,” she said. “School is out, so they’re not receiving free or reduced lunches. They eat at home, so demand for pantry food goes up dramatically.”

“Second, quite a few of our food comes from food drives organized by Catholic schools,” she continued. “When schools are out, donations are very low.”

It’s the perfect storm.

“Demand goes up, supply goes down, and our shelves are bare,” Brabits said.

Last year, Catholic Charities fulfilled 59,753 requests for food assistance.

Food requests are served through pantries in Emergency Assistance Centers at 2222 Central in Kansas City, Kan., 333 Poplar in Olathe, and 9806 W. 96th in Overland Park. Food vouchers are given at two additional locations.

“We hope to expand to Topeka,” said Brabits. “We have an Emergency Assistance site in Lawrence that offers food vouchers. Leavenworth has a small pantry that is sometimes able to offer vouchers as well, but it’s not as well-established.”

Catholic Charities recently acquired a resource bus to travel to outlying areas. (See story in upcoming issue.) It offers limited assistance in the form of bread and food vouchers, but Brabits hopes to expand this program, too. To date, the bus has visited Shawnee, Atchison and Holton. Those who want to know when the resource bus will visit their area should call the central office number at (913) 433-2100.

Persons who want food from Catholic Charities pantries need only to fill out a form and present identification. It’s a good idea to call ahead to the Wyandotte County pantry at (913) 621-3445, but no appointments are necessary at the two Johnson County pantries.

Donations of food or cash are always welcome. They can be dropped off at the pantry locations, or at the TurnStyles Thrift Store at 87th and Farley in Overland Park, just across the street from the main branch of the Johnson County Library.

To find out how you can organize a food drive to benefit Catholic Charities clients, go to the website at: www.catholiccharitiesks.org.

Pantry shopping list

• Meat (canned and frozen)

• Whole wheat pasta

• Tomato sauce

• Dried and canned fruit and vegetables

• Fruit juices

• Flour

• Sugar, vegetable oil

• Diapers and baby care items

• Laundry soap

• Dish soap

• Paper towels and toilet paper

• Personal hygiene products

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