Monday, January 21, 2013

Volunteer with a food pantry

By DIANE HENTGES, United Way of Wyandotte County

The weather is cold. Unemployment is high. Wages are low. Costs keep rising. This is a pretty gloomy situation. It is these conditions that challenge our local food pantries.

These pantries serve those who are affected by these gloomy conditions.  These pantries provide groceries to a family so they can eat and pay the rent. The pantries rely heavily on the good will and hard work of volunteers.

Volunteers can help local pantries in a number of ways. They can help in the office to take care of the phone, do paperwork, or help in the actual pantry.

They can sort donated food items and keep the shelves stocked. A volunteer might help a client through the maze of shelves to make the right selections for their family size.

Another way volunteers can help is to organize a food drive or collect personal care items for a pantry. Remember to keep food donations simple and include easy-to-prepare items.

Canned fruits, vegetables and canned tuna, salmon and chicken are always a good option. Fruit juices and breakfast cereals (hot and cold) are nutritious. Who doesn’t appreciate a hot bowl of soup on a cold day? Don’t forget to include a box a crackers.

Peanut butter is definitely a staple in my pantry and a good source of protein. What about a bag of pasta and a can of pasta sauce? Kids love those canned spaghetti dishes like Spaghetti O’s. Boxed meals like Hamburger or Tuna Helper make a nice addition to a pantry.

Packaged rice and potato dishes are always good. Flour, sugar, powdered or evaporated milk, salt, and pepper are staples that most kitchens can use. It is a good idea to include low sugar and low sodium options.

Babies are part of our families. Contributions of baby food and canned formula are always welcome.

Those seeking help from pantries also need personal care items like soap, shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste. Laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, paper towels and toilet paper are always appreciated.

If you need an item, then families accessing local pantries need it too.

Local pantries include Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas (913-621-1504), Cross-Lines Community Outreach (913-281-3388), Economic Opportunity Foundation (913-371-0848), Metropolitan Lutheran Ministry (913-342-8333, Mt. Carmel Redevelopment (913-621-4111), Salivation Army Harbor Lights (913-232-5400), and Vaughn-Trent Community Services in Bonner (913-441-0461).

Some local churches host a food pantry on certain days. Check your church or one in your neighborhood.

For more information on how you can GIVE, ADVOCATE, and VOLUNTEER please contact me at 913-371-3674 or at You can find volunteer opportunities by checking out our website, and click on Volunteer.