Preventing the cupboards from going bare is the goal of Salvation Army Lt. Heidi Strand. She’s putting out a call for more donations to deal with a shortage at the Olathe Salvation Army Food Pantry.
The pantry serves the homeless, families and others in need for the entire Johnson County area.
“That’s why the need is greater, because we have people coming in from all over the area,”Strand said.
Strand and her husband, Kory, both serve as new lieutenants to the Olathe Salvation Army. They moved with their two children from Chicago to join the administration in July.
“The generosity of the people here is unreal,” she said. “It’s so above what we would have ever expected. We know that if we put calls out for needs, it’s going to be answered.”
In addition to relying heavily on donations from residents and small businesses, the pantry is supported by a grant and donations from Johnson County Government’s Feed the Need campaign.
The annual campaign directly benefits the Salvation Army’s pantry and others serving Johnson County. Feed the Need has raised nearly 366,000 pounds of food this year.
“Feed the Need is one of the most significant food and fundraising efforts for the food pantries,” said Deborah Collins, director of the Human Services Department and co-chair of the current campaign. “It contributes literally tons of food that we otherwise would not be able to provide to families.”
Despite the significant amount of Feed the Need’s donations, the Olathe Salvation Army’s pantry still needs restocking.
About 35,000 of Johnson County’s 550,000-plus residents live at or below the poverty line. The number of needy people grows when including those struggling to make ends meet at 200 percent of the poverty level or $39,580 annually for a family of three. Nearly 95,000 county residents fit that description.
“The grants that we have from Johnson County Feed the Need are extremely generous, but it by itself cannot sustain the food pantry,” Strand said. “We depend every month on more food and financial donations to come in so that the pantry can be full. It always needs to be full because it’s always being emptied.”
The first call for donations came in July when the pantry was between funding.
Strand said the food and budget were very limited from July through August. Now the pantry is trying something new. Funding will be spread throughout the year while calls for donations will be requested more often. The hope is that regular donation requests will keep the public conscious about the constant need of the pantry and prevent the cupboards from completely emptying before more donations come in.
Items particularly needed at the pantry include pork and beans, miscellaneous beans, canned fruit, spaghetti sauce, canned chicken, pasta, boxed dinners, pancake mix, syrup and jelly.
Mixes that are donated should only require the addition of water as supplies like eggs, oil, and other additions are an expense that many cannot afford.
Donations can be made between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays at the Salvation Army at 420 E. Santa Fe.