KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A new food pantry on wheels is hitting the Kansas City area this summer.
ReNewed Hope Food Pantry in Overland Park, Kansas, partnered with multiple community agencies to launch the first-of-its-kind mobile pantry to the public on Friday.
Karen Whitson, the director of ReNewed Hoped Food Pantry, says the pantry hosted a lot of drive-through services and also delivered food to the homeless that were staying in hotels last year.
The staff used city buses for the operations at the time and felt a mobile pantry would be a great program to invest in year-round.
KCATA donated a 40-foot bus to the organization to refurbish and bring the vision to life.
“They took the seats out for us, so we can turn it into a food pantry on wheels,” Whitson said. “We put food on the bus and take it to neighborhoods where there’s a lot of food insecurity.”
This pantry is also a client-choice model, which mean community members who hop on can select their own food to take.
Whitson says the power to maker their own choices restores customers’ dignity. This model also cut down on possible waste.
“If we’re just packing a box and giving it to someone, there may be some items in there they are not used to using," Whitson said. "Maybe they don’t know how to cook that item, or it’s not something that they can eat or are allergic."
Following the pandemic, Whitson says the number of people needing assistance continue to grow at ReNewed Hope Food Pantry.
They serve about 400 families every week and with this, they will add about 50 more at each stop.
Ruth Gonzalez, a customer who waited in line at the pantry’s first stop in Kansas City, Kansas, hoped to fill the gaps on her weekly grocery list.
“Going to the grocery store [and] paying 200 dollars for not even half what you need, that’s pretty hard,” Gonzalez said. “We have to suffer. Just go without a lot of stuff, you know.”
The pantry is also more conveniently located for customers like Willie C. Hayes Jr., who does not have a car.
Even without a means of transportation, making it to the pantry means he will get help until his next food stamps.
“It’s pretty much either that or starve. It’s one of the two," Hayes said. "So I’m pretty sure, probably don’t wanna starve, so you’re gonna try your best to go."