Virtual food drive
• An online food bank donation Web site organized in part by the 2009 Leadership Lawrence class.
• The donated money is sent to the Chamber of Commerce’s Lawrence Foundation, where it is distributed quarterly to several area food banks, including Salvation Army, Ballard Center, ECKAN, Just Food and Trinity Interfaith Food Pantry.
Community members seeking to help out local food banks don’t need to haul cans of soup and green beans across town anymore.
Local food banks have partnered with a national online donation network — Aidmatrix — to create the Lawrence Virtual Food Drive, where a simple point and click can help out the hungry in the area.
A Web site allows people to donate money online, which is then distributed quarterly by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce’s charitable entity, the Lawrence Foundation. The funds go to several area food banks, including Ballard Center, Salvation Army, Trinity Interfaith Food Pantry, Just Food and ECKAN.
The virtual food drive was organized by the 2009 Leadership Lawrence class after staff at the Ballard Center asked the group for assistance with low food supplies.
Local food banks say that the need for assistance grows, and the level of donations decrease, during summer.
Jeanette Collier, executive director of the Douglas County branch of ECKAN, said that her organization has seen a 30 percent to 50 percent increase in food requests overall and that requests increase significantly during the summer when children are not receiving the free or reduced-price meals they do during the school year.
Collier said that about 90 percent of the requests for food ECKAN has seen in the past week are from families who typically rely on free or reduced-price lunches.
While summer lunch programs for children are operating, Collier said many families lack transportation to those programs.
Andy Brown, Ballard’s director of human service programs, said the increase in need is compounded by a lack of food drives that college campuses frequently organize.
“We lose a lot of steam,” said Brown of the decrease in summer donations.
Social service agencies hope the virtual food drive will streamline the donation process for donors and help stabilize food supplies for periods when donations run low. In addition to the ease of online donations, money donated online goes further and adds flexibility for food banks. Under the virtual drive, food banks can make purchases at a fraction of retail cost, said Brown.
The money donated also can be used to purchase perishable goods that are not typically donated to the food banks.
“It allows us to access far more quality, nutritious food,” Collier said.
Megan Poindexter, a member of the 2009 Leadership Lawrence class, said the new program has raised nearly $1,400 for area food banks since it kicked off in late April.