For families struggling to make ends meet, finding money to buy food can be hard enough. Add pets to the mix, and it can get even tougher.
Earlier this month, Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City opened Jasmine’s Corner Pet Food Pantry to give people who already come to the center’s food pantry a chance pick up food for their pets, too. Caring for pets can be especially difficult for some of the center’s older clients, who depend on animals for companionship, said Jewish Family Services spokeswoman Celeste Aronoff.
“You can imagine if their choice is ‘Do I feed myself or my pet?’ they might take that can of tuna we meant for them and give it to their cat,” she said.
More than half of the food pantry’s clients have pets, and there are not a lot of places to find help feeding them. The Kansas City area has only a small handful of pet food pantries, said Micah Townsend, a spokesman with VCA Mission Animal and Referral and Emergency Center, which is partnering with Jewish Family Services to provide pet food.
The Jewish Family Services pantry serves 150 families and hopes to add about 100 families by the end of the year.
The pet food pantry got its start when Jewish Family Services executive director Don Goldman took his cat, Jasmine, to the VCA Mission Animal and Referral and Emergency Center. As he flipped through a newsletter, he read about a Jewish Family Services and VCA clinic in Seattle partnering to provide pet food for families who couldn’t afford it. He was inspired to start a similar project here.
The VCA veterinary clinic has promised to donate 200 bags of dog food and 200 bags of cat food to the pantry every 10 weeks. Anyone can donate unopened pet food or pet supplies to the pantry.
Aronoff said she hopes helping people care for their pets will prevent families from making the difficult decision to get rid of their pets.
“Especially for people who are socially and economically isolated, to have to give up a pet is an even more profound loss,” she said.