Food pantry in need; Bus drivers, riders help fill shelves
With the winter break starting Wednesday and the Baldwin City Food Pantry in need of supplies, Tracy Rockers and the USD 348 transportation department donated a large stock of supplies Friday morning.
Rockers, Baldwin School District transportation director, and her bus drivers loaded up a van full of food, primarily canned food items, and helped stock the food pantry shelves inside the First United Methodist Church at Eighth and Grove streets. She was unsure how much was donated, but it far exceeded her expectations.
“I thought if we got 10 percent, that would be almost 100 cans we'd stock on the shelves,” Rockers said. “We had an incredible turnout. We filled two long, eight-foot tables with layers of canned foods. We had a whole van full when we took it down to the pantry.
“I was greatly surprised,” she said. “I was ecstatic. I was so excited. Each of the routes kept collecting and collecting. Everybody got really excited about it.”
The USD 348 transportation food drive began Dec. 12 and finished Friday morning. Fliers were sent home with the nearly 1,000 bus riders on Dec. 9. Students and drivers all donated to the cause during the week.
The transportation department chose the food pantry as its local charity, instead of adopting a family for the holidays. They felt this would reach more people and they were aware of the growing need for food at the pantry.
“We talked about doing something nice for the holidays,” Rockers said. “With no school starting this week until Jan. 4, that's a lot of time for kids to be home and for some kids in our community, their only real meals may be what they get at school. That was our concern.”
Their concern is one that food pantry volunteers share, too. School district students are out of class until Jan. 4, so the need for food will increase for the next two weeks.
“The thing that we are really needing right now are canned pastas,” food pantry volunteer Nancy Arnold said. “We will need a lot of that while the kids are out of school. We also need chili, canned meat or hearty soups. Those are the things we are in the most need of at the pantry.”
The food pantry has received donations from local businesses, community groups, Baker University, Baldwin High School, individuals and area churches. Some of those donations are regular, but the need is still high during tough economic times.
During November, the food pantry served 572 people representing 179 families. That number is much higher than it was a year ago.
“It is being used a lot,” Arnold said. “We've had about four or five families for about the last six weeks. We are doing a little bit better right now, because people are in the spirit of giving in November and December. They're giving food and monetary donations.
“We have to look at the big picture,” she said. “We can't think we are doing great now, because come this summer, the shelves are bare and the kids are out of school. Plus, we don't get the donations then. So we need to be good stewards of our resources and money.”
Food Pantry volunteers are appreciative of the donations they receive. They've also recently started receiving food from Just Foods in Lawrence.
Just Foods, who receives food from Harvesters in Kansas City, gives the Baldwin City Food Pantry 100 pounds of food each week.
“Anytime that businesses and organizations can give, it helps a lot tremendously,” Arnold said. “The other thing that's been helpful is we got hooked up with Just Foods in Lawrence. That's been very helpful.”
Food or monetary donations are welcome anytime. There is also a cart inside the Baldwin City Market that collects items for the pantry.
The food pantry is open from 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday in the basement of the First United Methodist Church.
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