SHAWNEE, KS (KCTV) – Some food pantries in and around the metro are having to close their doors for the safety of their volunteers, growing the demand for those staying open and trying to feed the hungry during this pandemic.

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The food pantry at Shawnee Community Services remains open for now, but they do have concerns. Most of their volunteers are in the at-risk population, but they know the community is relying on them now more than ever.

A lot of the food on the shelves at the pantry comes from grocery store surplus. With the mad rush by the public to stockpile groceries, Shawnee Community Services President and CEO Sylvia Terry said there wasn’t much for them to donate for a while.

“They didn’t at first. It was very slim. We didn’t have any bread even, because that’s what everybody was buying,” Terry recalled. “We had lots of desserts because people were not buying desserts, however it has settled down now and now they have about the usual amount of product.”

A drop in donations of staple items is just one of many issues Terry has faced trying to continue serving those in need throughout this pandemic.

“There’s lots of need all over the community and we can’t fill all the need,” she said. “No one place can fill all the needs.”

Demand for pantry pickup has increased since many clients aren’t comfortable shopping on their own anymore, plus there are a lot of new clients as many employers make cuts due to the economic downtown brought on by the coronavirus.

“People who haven’t asked before are having to ask for the layoffs and furloughs,” Terry said.

All of this increase is happening while having fewer volunteers because most of them are at high-risk for COVID-19.

“There are several other pantries, one is a major pantry, that has had to close for that exact reason,” Terry explained. “Most of the volunteers are elderly in the high-risk group.”

Clients like David Thayer say they are missing the volunteers who aren’t able to come in to the pantry.

“There’s a couple that I haven’t seen since they instituted this, but I think they’re self-isolating themselves because of the coronavirus, and they are in their 80s,” he told KCTV5 News.

Thayer said he is glad they’re staying home and staying healthy, adding that a lot of people are relying on this pantry staying open and that he’s grateful they’re still able to help.

“There’s quite a few people here that I really care about,” he said. “There are other communities in Kansas that are not doing as well as we are.”

Shawnee Community Services is not welcoming new volunteers even though they are struggling, just to limit the number of people in building.

For those with the means to help, the best way to do so is by having food delivered or donating money.

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