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Jayhawks Give Back

KU alumna, Just Food fill needs for local women, children

A KU alumna is using her role at a local food bank to help provide diapers and menstrual hygiene products to those in need in the Douglas County community.

Just Food, based in Lawrence since 2009, operates a food pantry that serves 150-300 families daily and provides partner agencies with food and supplies in need.

Jessica Cooney, d’18, got started at Just Food as an intern during her senior year. The community health major then stayed on after graduation through Americorps and was later hired full time. Today, Cooney works as client services manager.

“My main role at Just Food is to ensure shoppers and food insecure residents of Douglas County have access to healthy foods and the basic needs for daily living,” says Cooney. “This includes our food pantry on site, overseeing our Americorps members, community pantries (including Campus Cupboard at KU!), pantries in schools, and any other partner agencies or organizations like the National Diaper Bank and Alliance for Period Supplies.”

“I saw how relieved families and individuals were when they received these items and knew there had to be something else we could be doing to provide them for our users whenever they needed”

Just Food has always received donations of diapers and menstrual hygiene products, but never enough to provide them consistently.

“I saw how relieved families and individuals were when they received these items and knew there had to be something else we could be doing to provide them for our users whenever they needed,” says Cooney. “February of 2020 was when we were officially accepted into the National Diaper Bank Network as the 3rd diaper bank in the state of Kansas. Then in February of 2021 we were accepted into the Alliance for Period Supplies as the only period bank in the state.”

Now, Just Food is able to provide these products that are necessities, yet were previously hard to get using government assistance.

“Our clients now know that we have the size diapers they need for their kids or that we will always have menstrual hygiene products stocked on our shelves,” says Cooney. “From our supporters what we’ve heard most is the surprise when they find out that diapers and menstrual products can’t be purchased with SNAP (food stamps) or WIC (women, infant, child) benefits. It places an unnecessary burden on low-income families to provide basic need products with very limited resources.”

Cooney offered a variety of ways Jayhawks can support Just Food’s efforts to provide essentials to the Douglas County community. “Donate to our programs, follow us on social media, share our posts and education materials with their communities, and continue the conversation around reliable and consistent access to basic needs as a priority in our world.”

Our Jayhawks Give Back program, presented by Andrew Wymore, Realtor, celebrates ’Hawks who are making a difference in ways big and small. Each quarter, we’ll feature a member of the KU family and their story. If you know a Jayhawk who should be featured in Jayhawks Give Back, let us know!

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