KC food pantries struggle with increasing demand, stigma

Food Pantry
Posted at 9:43 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-12 00:08:53-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic continues, food pantries across the Kansas City area are either struggling to keep up with the overwhelming demand and eliminate the stigma of asking for help.

Bethel Neighborhood Center in Kansas City, Kansas, served six times as many households in May as it did in March. Bethel relies on partnerships with community entities, like Harvesters Community Food Bank, to keep its shelves stocked with a variety of options.

“If not for those extra partnerships, it would be a little difficult to keep on hand what people need right now,” Rosa Macias, an administrative officer at Bethel Neighborhood Center, said.

When 41 Action News visited Bethel Neighborhood Center on Wednesday morning, a truck full of fresh fruits and vegetables was arriving at the center. The produce is part of the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program.

Once a week, Bethel Neighborhood Center receives 500 pounds of produce divided into 200 boxes.

According to the center’s executive director, Mang Sonna, the boxes are gone by 3 p.m. on the same day they arrive.

“A lot of people pass on our information to other people that they know so we do expect (the demand) to go up,” Macias said.

Across the state line at the Jewish Family Services’ Brookside location, the shelves also are stocked with a variety of food.

JFS served 450 families in March. By May, JFS served 600 families — a 33% increase, but not as high as the organization expected or for which it planned.

“We had anticipated serving at least 700 families a month at this point with room to grow and serve 900 families at the end of July,” JFS Food Pantry Director Jo Hickey said. “A lot of what we have heard is that other people need the food more than they do, and that’s not the case. Everyone who needs food should reach out to the local pantry.”

While the JFS pantry is open by appointment only, emergency food assistance is available by calling 913-327-8250 for an appointment.

“It’s really hard to take that next step to ask for assistance, but we’re here to make it easy and comfortable for families,” Hickey said.