Just Food seeks community’s help in its ‘biggest time of need’

photo by: Ashley Golledge

From left, Tory Roberson, food recovery manager; Jessica Cooney, client services manager; Wayne Briggs, food recovery assistant; and Steven Elliott, volunteer manager, stand outside the Just Food building at 1000 E. 11th St. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. The exterior of the building was recently painted green.

Summer is always Just Food’s busiest season — a time of year when the community’s need for food assistance increases — and this summer the lingering coronavirus pandemic has made it even busier.

“Kids being out of school is a big challenge for folks with families,” said Elizabeth Keever, Just Food’s executive director, noting that people typically face increased food costs when their kids aren’t in school, as well as having to pay for child care, air-conditioning bills and the like.

On top of that, as she notes, the pandemic, which made life so difficult for so many, is not over.

“People just are not where they were before,” she said. “It’s not over for so many folks.”

The recently expanded food pantry at 1000 E. 11th St. had its single busiest in-person day — in the organization’s history — on May 25. On that day it served 801 individuals, Keever said. And summer has just begun.

As high as that in-person number is, the curbside numbers during the height of the pandemic were “far, far higher,” she said, which, with other challenges, has contributed to the pantry’s coming up short of its summer goal to feed all children in need.

“We’ve raised funds to feed two out of every three children at risk for hunger,” Keever said in a recent email to potential donors.

The email states that before the pandemic the childhood food insecurity rate had fallen by 17% in three years, but “COVID-19 has devastated our progress, and in one year alone, the Douglas County childhood food insecurity rate has climbed by 30%.”

Just Food relies heavily on community support; about 17% of its total revenue comes from events and about 16% from general contributions from the community, Keever said — a situation that’s been complicated by the pantry’s major fundraisers being canceled during the pandemic, including its annual food truck festival, chef’s table dinners and the Stamp Out Hunger drive it conducts with local postal carriers.

“People were incredibly generous to us to help us get through a huge hurdle,” Keever said of the extraordinary pandemic year.

She’s hopeful that the generosity will continue as the community recovers.

“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without this community,” Keever said, “and we’re grateful for the donations to help us keep our shelves stocked this summer, which is, hands down, our biggest time of need.”

Anyone wishing to help out can make a tax-deductible donation to Just Food through its website, Justfoodks.org.

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