And you thought your kitchen was busy this holiday season.
I chatted recently with Jeremy Farmer, executive director of Lawrence’s Just Food food bank, and he told me his organization has been busy putting together 916 Christmas baskets for households that were struggling to put a Christmas meal on the table.
The fact that there is an organization that can put together such a charitable effort is heart-warming, but what is disheartening is that the number of people in need of the service has grown significantly.
Farmer said Just Food did 750 baskets last year, so demand is up by about 22 percent. Farmer said the holiday numbers are indicative of the demand the food bank has been seeing all year.
“We definitely don’t see the higher numbers as a success point,” Farmer said. “It is a reminder that as a community, we have failed to solve this problem.”
Look for some significant changes in food bank operations in 2013. We’ll have more on it later, but the United Way program that encourages social services providers to better collaborate is moving into Lawrence’s food pantry system. Farmer said Just Food, which operates a warehouse of food supplies near 11th and Haskell, will begin operating satellite food pantries at several locations, including the Ballard Center and Penn House. In the past, there have been food pantries at those locations, but they have been run independently. Now, it sounds like most of the food pantries in town will come under the management of Just Food.
As I said, we’ll get more details on that in the future.
As far as the Christmas baskets go, the deadline to sign up and qualify for those has already passed. Just Food workers are distributing the baskets through Saturday. The baskets include vegetables, fruit, bread, meat, cranberry sauce, dessert and, of course, gravy.
Ah, gravy. Soon, I will be swimming in it. That’s my way of saying that Town Talk will take a few days off to celebrate the holidays. (And by celebrate, I mean dipping innumerable, edible items in gravy.) Look for the gravy-stained column to return after the New Year.
I sure hope you all have a safe and very happy holiday season.