Let it never be said that Just Food is a one-trick pony.
Yes, they run a food pantry at 1000 E. 11th Street. However, they also have plenty of community outreach. Their Cruising Cupboard is a mobile pantry that visits outlying areas in Douglas County, such as Baldwin City and Eudora. They have a new commercial kitchen called the Chop Shop, which turns blemished food into ready-to-go meals. And they have a scaled-down version of their pantry called the Care Cupboard. Located at 1312 W. 6th Street, it shares space in the same building as Heartland Health and runs in conjunction with that organization.
Back at the 11th Street location, plenty is going on. Over the past couple of years, the pantry space has expanded four times the size of pre-pandemic.
“That was actually a positive side effect of Covid, was that we qualified for government funding that otherwise wouldn’t have existed,” explains Just Food manager Aundrea Walker. “We were able to make the area much more spacious, so our clients’ experience is much better.”
And that is one of the wonderful things about Just Food: Instead of handing out a box of random items, as food pantries in some other towns do, they want folks to go shopping at their facility to select the items they need and place them in their basket, as they peruse the shelves and cabinets. There are several advantages to this business model. It cuts down on the potential for food waste when someone selects people’s groceries with no input as to what they need. It allows people not to feel that a hand-out is being given but acknowledges their personhood. Dignity is preserved.
“And we don’t feel like we should tell people what to eat. They can make those decisions for themselves,” Walker adds.
The ready-to-eat meals created by the staff at their Chop Shop are available at the pantries. Sometimes, people don’t have time to prepare a meal, so these pre-made options are an easy way to get a nutritious meal. Recipes are also available to those interested in new dishes to cook.
Just Food simply wants to continue its mission to assist the community using dignified policies and procedures that make the whole experience of visiting a food pantry a positive one. Jackie Becker, board president, elaborates, “We’re not about giving people a box of food. People can shop in the pantry or have one of our volunteers shop for them. We’ll drop off your food at your doorstep. We bring food to schools. All the programs are about giving people a choice.”
How to Support Just Food
1. Volunteer: Help fill the pantry shelves. Be a part of the repack team by helping with the ready-to-eat meals at the Chop Shop. Work on the Cruising Cupboard mobile pantry. Gather friends and family and hit the streets distributing door hangers to spread the word about Just Food services.
2. Donate: Every dollar given to Just Food provides the equivalent of five meals for families in need. Donations are tax-deductible.
3. Donate food and cooking tools.
4. Host a food or fund drive.
5. Attend Just Food fundraising events throughout the year.
For more details, go to JustFoodKS.org.