Summer creating bigger need at community food pantry
With two weeks remaining until all USD 348 students are back in school, the Baldwin City Community Food Pantry is in need of donations.
The summer months have taken a toll on the supply at the food pantry, which is located in the basement of the First United Methodist Church, 704 Eighth Street. Struggling families need more food with children home eight more hours a day.
“There is a huge need right now,” said Kelly Bethel-Smith, food pantry volunteer. “There are a number of factors as people continue to struggle financially. One of the reasons is when you have kids home from school for two more meals a day, that increases the need and the strain it puts on families. Kids can eat at school, but they aren’t there right now, so the need increases two-fold every day. That’s a big part of it right there.”
The food pantry is serving between 100-150 people every week. It is open from 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday. Dozens of families are coming in each week for food and supplies.
“Our donations are down a bit,” Bethel-Smith said. “I think that everybody is feeling the pressures of this economy. Everybody is paying more for their utilities than ever before, and we’ve had a really hot summer. I think that while we have such great generosity in our community, which is wonderful, everybody has felt the pinch.
“At the same time, the needs are increasing as well. People have less money to buy food or other things. It’s adding up for a number of people and a lot of those people have children, which causes the extra need during the summer months.”
Some suggestions for donations include non-perishable foods, nutritional supplements, low-sodium foods, low-sugar foods, baby food and other foods for infants and the elderly.
“When we’re dealing with pantry donations, we’re grateful for all of it,” Bethel-Smith said. “Quite truthfully, a lot of things that are in here are high fructose or sodium. So if people bring in things that are lower in those areas, that’s awesome.”
Fruit and vegetables can also be donated. If they are fresh, the food pantry volunteers ask that you call and make arrangements first, so the food can be stored properly.
“In terms of week to week, fruit is such a great commodity,” Bethel-Smith said. “I cannot underestimate that enough. It is more expensive than buying a can of green beans, so anytime we can get fruit or even mixed vegetables is wonderful.”
A donation is expected soon from Kite Video, whose two-week food drive ended Sunday. The total amount of food and donations from the drive hasn’t been determined, but it will help stock the food pantry.
“I’m thrilled,” Bethel-Smith said. “I’ve seen part of it already. Before we left on vacation, my daughters and I went to take some of it out of their window. We needed to clear some of it out and move it to the church. It’s wonderful and I know they are a huge help.”
The Kite Video food drive wasn’t the only source of donations recently. The church’s vacation Bible school’s outreach program assisted the food pantry this summer. Bethel-Smith said the program was a success and she was happy the Baldwin City food pantry continued to operate on a weekly basis.
“Many food pantries that aren’t government-related, are shutting down or reducing their hours,” Bethel-Smith said. “Most food pantries are open once a month, but ours is open four times a month. We’ve been able to maintain that. Baldwin City is a place that supports the pantry to such an extent that we’ve been able to keep this open four times a month. In this economy, that’s not only difficult to do, but rare in this day.”