MISSION, Kan. — An hour before the Mission Community Food Pantry opened on an August afternoon, cars started lining the parking lot of Trinity Lutheran Church.
"This is the first time I've been here," said Linda Boyer. "It means a whole lot because you only have so much money for utilities and rent and food and sometimes, quite honestly, food is what takes the cut."
There are people who may not know where their next meal will come from in every corner of the community.
The latest report from Feeding America shows that in the more than two dozen counties Harvesters serves, hunger is higher than in 2019 before the pandemic hit. In 2021, their data shows more than 97,000 people in Jackson County, Missouri, and more than 57,000 people in Johnson County, Kansas, may be food insecure.
"We knew the need was there," said Rhonda Synovec, pantry manager at Mission Community Food Pantry.
They saw the need before 2020 while running a summer lunch program. The pandemic added to the pressure that they wanted to help feed local families.
"It was the big catalyst to get this whole ball rolling," Synovec said.
Now a few dozen volunteers help run Mission Community Food Pantry. The need has not let up since they started serving families curbside last October.
"We normally see on average between 50 and 60 cars and some of those cars have multiple families that they're picking up for," Synovec.
The curbside pantry offers pick up on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. The pantry gets part of the food and goods they give from community donations and part of the food they give from Harvesters.
"Our agencies reported a 40% increase in people coming in," said Gene Hallinan with Harvesters.
The organization has also seen more new agencies partnering with them in the last year.
From July 2020 to June 2021, Harvesters reports 108 new agencies partnered with them — far outpacing the previous two years in which they saw 65 (July 2019 - June 2020) and 46 (July 2018 - June 2019) agencies added.
"Seeing what we make each week, the bags, and then seeing them gone the next week, there's a need," said Kerry Barker.
His family, including his kids, volunteers at the Mission Community Food Pantry.
"My wife and I, we have four children. We're one accident, whatever emergency away — we could be here getting food," Barker said.
Hallinan is hopeful 2022 will bring a new season.
"Hopefully end of next year, 2022, we can start seeing some recover," Hallinan said.
Those who are facing food insecurity, meanwhile, appreciate the help while it's needed.
"This is a great relief, yes, it's a lot of help," Boyer said as volunteers packed food in the back of her car.