Just Food introduces mobile pantry to serve rural Douglas County, south Lawrence

photo by: Submitted photo

Just Food uses this converted bus it calls its Cruising Cupboard to extend its free food distributions to Baldwin City, Eudora and Lecompton, as well as a population in south Lawrence that is underserved by the agency.

Just Food is now going on the road to feed the hungry in Douglas County.

Aundrea Shafer, Just Food program director, said the food pantry rolled out its Cruising Cupboard with an Oct. 1 trip to Lecompton. It has since had an Oct. 15 distribution in Lyons Park in North Lawrence. Food was distributed to 47 people in Lecompton and 14 people in Lawrence, she said.

The Cruising Cupboard is a converted passenger bus purchased with a donation from an anonymous benefactor, Shafer said. Now fitted with a freezer, refrigerator and shelving, the vehicle can be stocked with canned goods, dry goods, fresh produce, dairy products and meat, Shafer said.

The Cruising Cupboard is not meant to replace Just Food’s pantry at 1000 E. 11th St. in Lawrence, but to augment it, Shafer said.

“We’re hoping this reaches populations who can’t access our pantry in Lawrence,” she said. “I have worked for Just Food for 4 1/2 years. This has always been our dream. We wanted to serve the rural communities in an affordable way. This is the best way to do that.”

Just Food is developing a schedule that will be introduced with the new year that will have the Cruising Cupboard make monthly visits to the county’s rural communities of Baldwin City, Eudora and Lecompton as well as a south Lawrence site. Shafer said Just Food is working with Lawrence Parks and Recreation to identify a distribution location in either Broken Arrow Park or Holcom Park to serve a large population in south Lawrence that has difficulty accessing its 11th Street warehouse.

The mobile unit will be on the road with a more varied schedule, Shafer said. The Cruising Cupboard will distribute food at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the the Baldwin City First United Methodist Church parking lot in the 700 block of Grove Street, Shafer said. It will distribute food from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Lecompton First United Methodist Church, and it will be in Eudora Nov. 19 at a time and place yet to be finalized.

The Cruising Cupboard operates much like the Just Food’s main warehouse with shoppers entering the vehicle, which is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, to select the food they want, Shafer said. Shoppers are given tokens to spend on food with most items costing one token, although some fresh produce can be purchased for less as a way to encourage the inclusion of healthy fruit and vegetables, she said.

As in the warehouse, the food in the pantry is donated, Shafer said.

Shafer said Just Food views the Cruising Cupboard as a complement to community food banks in Baldwin City, Eudora and Lecompton.

“Our goal is to give rural residents an option beyond local community food banks.

“We want to provide all residents of the county another opportunity to get access to healthy food,” she said.

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