Douglas Co. pantry to open new facility after COVID-19 leads to summer boom

Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 12:37 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - As the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a summer boom for Just Food, Douglas County’s food pantry has taken steps to expand its facility.

Just Food, Douglas County’s local food bank, announced on Wednesday, Aug. 10, that it has signed a lease agreement to take over the space at 805 Vermont St. It will primarily serve as a production facility where recovered foods will be turned into ready-to-eat meals available to Just Food shoppers.

While the program has operated in the community since March - with stints at kitchens at the Culinary Commons and Eudora High School - Just Food said the dedicated space will allow it to ramp up production to a new level.

“While a program like this has been a goal for the organization for many years, it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic and its lasting effects that we saw the rising need for ready-to-eat meals and the persistence of food waste numbers within our food system,” said Brett Salsbury, Interim Executive Director. “This program will serve both ends: it will provide more ready-to-eat meals, and it will also curb food waste numbers by adding value to donated and recovered food.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Just Food said it has seen a higher retention rate of shoppers, along with increased food prices in grocery stores and continued supply chain issues. This has led to a busy summer at the food pantry. It noted that nearly 20% of visitors - over 1,500 - had never visited before.

“Our hope is that this program will enable Just Food to continue to meet the ongoing food needs of folks in Douglas County, eliminate food waste, and meet our community members where they are,” said Salsbury. “Not all of our community members have the time and resources to cook their own meals. This program has already given back so much precious time to our shoppers and their families.”

While Just Food said the facility will mostly be used for production purposes, there is the potential to use the space in other ways - including cooking demonstrations and other events. It said the space will not be used as a food distribution or hot meal site - at least initially.

For more information about Just Food, click HERE.

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