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Feeding Kansas City's hungry goes beyond the holidays

Jo Hickey, food pantry manager at Jewish Family Services, says food is the number one thing people think about when they have to make decisions about where to spend money.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The Jewish Family Services food pantry (above) is currently serving about 800 families per month, down from last summer's high of 1,100 families.

The greatest number of volunteers and donations to food pantries and kitchens occur at holiday time, but people go hungry 365 days of the year.

"Kansas City is a generous community," says Doug Langner.

As the person who oversees food operations for the Bishop Sullivan Center, Langner has seen that generosity firsthand. "When it comes to the holidays," he notes, "I bet we pull in 80% of our food this time of year."

Bishop Sullivan is just one of a number of organizations that run food pantries and kitchens around the metro. All face a similar challenge — having enough food to keep their facilities stocked the rest of the year.

Sue Fenske says demand has increased for her organization, NourishKC. "Last year we did a total of about 87,000 prepared meals. This year we're going to be pushing 150,000 meals."

One way that NourishKC gets goods all year long is through its food rescue program. It keeps food out of the trash by working with area grocers, restaurants, wholesalers and local farmers to obtain stock that is perfectly good but not saleable.

That goes to NourishKC's Kansas City Community Kitchen for the meals it prepares and distributes and is also shared with area food kitchens.

Many of the nonprofits fighting food insecurity rely on volunteers to help with collecting, sorting, preparing, packaging and distributing food.

While they welcome the influx of volunteers around the holidays, Brittani Rhoads of Jewish Family Services (JFS) notes, "My favorite volunteers start in February."

For the JFS food pantry, volunteers are particularly important because the pantry often serves as the gateway to the other services offered there including mental health and education, family life education and LGBTQ services.

Bishop Sullivan's Doug Langner has a suggestion for those donating and volunteering this holiday season. "Enjoy this week with your family but make a plan come February to maybe then think about it," because he points out, "that's, I think, when a lot of agencies start seeing some other shortages that don't come this time of year."

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