The food pantries in the Kansas City metro have been doing record business since the economic downturn of 2008. In fact, many of the church-based food pantries can barely keep up with the demand for staples (pasta, rice, canned fruits and vegetables) and personal hygiene products (shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper). But when things are stressful for families, very often their pets are just as needy. That's the reason the staff at Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City have, with help from the the VCA Animal Referral and Emergency Center in Mission, created a distinct section for animal food in the food pantries at JFS offices: at both the Missouri location (9233 Ward Parkway) and, on the Kansas side, the larger food pantry at the Jewish Community Campus at 5801 West 115th Street in Overland Park.
Both pet food-pantry areas are called Jasmine's Corner, in honor of the late, beloved cat of JFS executive director Don Goldman. "Before her death, our Jasmine had been a patient at the VCA hospital in Mission, and the staff there had been so great and kind, we asked them to partner with us to create an area of our food pantry specifically focused on the needs of dogs and cats.
"When the JFS opened its food pantries last year," Goldman adds, "we had requests for pet food almost immediately. When we made calls to other pantries, we discovered that very few of them offered pet food. But the need was definitely there."
Goldman says elderly clients of the pantry have expressed the most need for aid for their animals. "At least one-third of the households using our services are elderly men and women who have a pet. Sometimes that pet is a very important companion - maybe the only companion - for our senior clientele."
Since creating Jasmine's Corner, Goldman says, the response from food-pantry clients "has been amazing. We had no idea how pressing the problem could be."
JFS has donation drums - they are collecting pet food, cat litter, pet treats, and new or unused pet supplies like blankets and toys - at their offices and at the VCA emergency facility at 5914 Johnson Drive in Mission.
"This project resonates with a lot of people," Goldman says. "We've heard some heartbreaking stories from people who, because of finances, were forced to give up their pets."
To contribute to Jasmine's Corner, call Jewish Family Services at 913-327-8250.