Bringing better coordination to the delivery of social services in Lawrence has been a long-term goal.
For that reason, it was encouraging to see local agencies that maintain food pantries gather to discuss how they might pool their resources to better fight hunger in Lawrence. It was less encouraging, however, to see that part of the solution one group already has implemented is to form another agency called "Just Food."
The new agency, while undeniably well intentioned, seems to add another layer of bureaucracy while, at least currently, not serving as a comprehensive central distributor for donated food resources. Just Food includes several local social service agencies and churches but not some other key players, such as Ballad Community Center and Penn House.
The idea of having a central food pantry that would accept donations from throughout the community and distribute food to various agencies is a good one. It would allow a more orderly process that leaves no doubt where donors should take contributions and gives them confidence their donations will be directed where they are needed most. But rather than form a new agency, it would seem to make more sense for an existing agency to take over the central food pantry role.
Lawrence is such a caring community that many people are eager to jump in to fill the needs they see. That's great, but adding new agencies sometimes leads to services that are stepping on one another as well as competing with one another for a finite amount of local charitable dollars and donations.
Coordinating the city's food pantries is a good idea. Perhaps Just Food can merge its effort with an existing agency that already has a staff and structure to support it. There's no doubt that fighting hunger in Lawrence is a worthy goal; the only question is how to most efficiently tackle that job.