In Douglas County, Kansas, nearly 19,000 families are at risk for hunger…hunger in this United States of America, the land of plenty! While we could expound on the reasons why such a sad anomaly occurs, we will, instead, focus on the efforts of Just Food to come to the rescue!
Founded in 2009, when $250,000 in funding from the Obama administration American Recovery and Reinvestment Act became available, Just Food now serves 100 to 200 families each day, providing nutritious, fresh, delicious food to help supplement a family’s food needs. With about $456,000 in contributions, including grants from the US Department of Agriculture, and food donations upwards of $1,380,000 over the course of a year (these figures are from 2016), Just Food strives to repurpose food that might otherwise be wasted. In its warehouse, large coolers contain boxes of apples, bags of lettuce, carrots, pre-packaged salads, and potatoes. In its freezer, meat and other frozen products await distribution. In a special freezer, delicious donated cakes, pies, and pastries lay waiting for a client’s special birthday treat!
During the Obama Legacy Initiative visit by President Fred Greenwood, we saw for ourselves the dedication of their volunteers, the hardworking and efficient staff, and the clean and attractive facility that houses the food pantry and gardens. Although it was too early to view the gardens planted and flourishing, we saw the many raised beds awaiting seeds, warm weather and willing hands! Stephen Elliott, Office Coordinator, indicated that clients of Just Food are invited to plant, tend and harvest for themselves the produce they grow; they are also encouraged to donate to the pantry any leftover produce they may have.
Educational activities for their clients also take place at the food bank, including those centered on preparing healthy meals for their families.
Just Food envisions a day when everyone has access to nutritious food through an efficient and sustainable acquisition and distribution network. Its special emphasis on growing one’s own food and learning how to better prepare it continues the legacy of our former First Lady, Michelle Obama.