A volunteer shortage has led to a growing concern that the Just Food community food bank will not be able to provide food to Lawrence families in a timely manner.
“We noticed a slowdown in the summer,” said Carolyn Ward, director of planning for Just Food, which distributes food for ECKAN. Ward said that summer is a busy time for the food bank because “families are spending more of their budgets on food to support their children while they’re off school.”
Just Food and other local food banks serve nearly 8,000 households and 25,000 individuals in Douglas County, but the lack of volunteers has stretched the pantry’s already thin work force.
“It makes it harder for me to be in five places at one time if we don’t have the volunteers to help out,” said Damien St. Julien. The 30-year-old Lawrence resident has worked at the food bank since November, and said more volunteers would mean better customer service.
“When we get a rush of people I have to serve the client, answer phones and organize the warehouse,” he said.
Volunteers are asked to do a number of tasks, from sorting and packaging customer food baskets to basic clerical work. But volunteers said the experience of working with the food pantry clients was both rewarding and eye-opening.
“I was surprised how many different reasons people come,” said volunteer Barbara Meidinger. “Whether they’re homeless or they just have a real problem at a certain time or they have tons of kids and they just can’t feed them. It’s very rewarding to be able to help them out.”
And despite the volunteer shortage, Ward said the pantry will do whatever it takes to get food to those in need.
“Wait times may be longer,” she said, “but I can assure you that no one was turned away and there is always food available.”
If interested in volunteering, contact Just Food at 856-7030.