Amy Cunnigham
Right now the shelves of local food pantries sit stocked, waiting for the December surge of people, expected to grow as the winter season gets colder.
“We expect to continue to be very busy,” said Joanne Haworth, Community
Social Services Manager at Gardner Multi Service Center, adding that, across the board Johnson County Multi Service Centers have experienced a 30 percent uptick in the number of people seeking assistance this year. “As the holidays arrive there will be an even greater need.”
Linda Rogers, Community Social Services Manager at the Spring Hill Multi Service Center said that there is always an increase in people seeking food assistance when school is out.
“When kids are home from school, over Christmas break, and they’re not getting free and reduced lunches, I’ll see heavy use especially at those times,” she said.
According to Haworth, in order to receive goods from the Multi Service Center’s food bank people must first prove their residence inside of the district served by the center.  Once that is established, aide is provided to those who qualify.
While the Gardner Multi Service Center also serves Edgerton, residents in that city have banded together to open their own food pantry located in the town.  The service is operated out of the museum building next to Edgerton City Hall.
Heidi Wiseman, Edgerton councilwoman and manager of that city’s food pantry is also experiencing higher than normal demand.
“We have seen an influx this fall, it’s about double what we normally see,” she said.
Currently the pantries have all benefited from recent food drives operated by local schools and businesses, but those items are not expected to carry them through the winter.
Rogers, said that, while people are generous at this time of year, the winter months can be quite busy at the pantry.
“It may look like we’re so stocked right now, but it goes as quickly as it comes in.  By March or February will it still be stocked, I can’t tell you,” she questioned.
According to Haworth, Rogers and Wiseman, in addition to food all of the pantries are in need of personal care and hygiene items such as laundry detergent, shampoo, soap, tooth paste, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper and diapers, to name a few.
These organizations rely on the generosity of others to see that people in the community don’t go hungry.
“We do the best we can with the donations we are given,” said Wiseman.