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Archive for Tuesday, July 31, 2001

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July 31, 2001

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No school means no free school lunches for low-income children, so many Lawrence parents turn to the pantries.

"Parents are used to their kids going to school and relying on the meals offered there," said Eve Cofer, director of the East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corp., a Douglas County social service agency, 1600 Haskell Ave.

Cofer said increased summer demand strains the pantries' food stocks. The situation in Lawrence is not unique.

More than 65 percent of emergency food providers in the United States experience the lowest donation levels during summer, according to a recent national survey by Tyson Foods and the anti-hunger group Share Our Strength.

ECKAN isn't in crisis mode yet, Cofer said, but help from the public is welcomed by the organization, which aids more than 100 area families each month.

"Anything is welcome, but meat is a big thing we don't seem to get enough of," Cofer said.

Suggested items include hamburger, hot dogs, canned meat, bologna, tuna and peanut butter, she said.

Jolee Erskin, coordinator of Penn House, 1035 Pa., said that organization also has seen more families come through the doors.

"Parents have more meals to make because the kids are home during the summer," she said.

Erskin said Penn House, which also provides clothing, furniture and other assistance to the needy, is short on dry goods such as cereal, boxed potatoes, powdered milk and Hamburger Helper.

Clark Keffer, kitchen manager and volunteer coordinator at Salvation Army, 946 N.H., said donations of garden produce would help him better feed the hungry. Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday he cooks a noon meal for about 60 people.

"In order to get a balanced nutritious meal, I would like to get some fresher vegetables so I can get some of the fiber and nutrition into the meal rather than using canned green beans," he said. "We go through a lot of canned goods."

Andy Brown, director of social services at Ballard Community Center, 708 Elm, said the agency is participating in HGTV's "Plant a Row for the Hungry" program and keeping track of the donated produce.

"The idea is if you have anything extra in your garden, bring it over and we can certainly use it," he said.

Otherwise, Brown said, the center's pantry is fairly well stocked, thanks to a food drive by Sprint Telecenter two months ago.

During June and July, food pantries received some relief with help from Lawrence's annual summer food program organized by the school district, the city's Parks and Recreation department and other agencies.

Until July 27, Children 18 and younger could get free lunch at two of the city's recreation centers and free breakfast at the Boys and Girls Club. The program was funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's free and reduced-cost lunch program. But it won't take care of August needs.

"Food pantries still need donations during the summer, and the holidays are a bad time, too, for us," Cofer said.

-- Staff writer Joy Ludwig can be reached at 832-7144.

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