With the Thanksgiving holiday just days ahead, the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank is gearing up for one of its busiest times of the year.
The food bank is in the midst of benefiting from a bevy of food drives organized by local businesses, and will be open Wednesday for Thanksgiving dinner hosted in its Fireweed Diner Soup Kitchen.
Brenda Dunn, who has spent over 18 years as head chef at the food bank, estimates that the diner serves about 75 people on a daily basis, but she expects more than 100 people for Wednesday’s Thanksgiving meal.
“It is a social thing for people,” said executive director Greg Meyer. “It’s more than just getting a meal, it gets them out of the house and socializing.”
The food bank, which served more than 20,000 meals in 2017, or an average of 1,700 meals per month at its diner, also administers an emergency direct food service program, collects and redistributes food for member agencies and distributes U.S. Department of Agriculture commodities.
Programs manager Linda Kendall said at least 10 community food drives are helping out during the holiday season, including several local banks, the Association of Realtors, the Yoga Sol studio and the Alaska Car Shop, and more help is on the way — donations will be brought in by the 12-week winter race series, the Freezer Food Series, which will be held on the Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna starting Nov. 25.
Kendall said she expects the community to continue offering support throughout the holiday season.
“There’ll be more coming along,” Kendall said. “They call us up and help out.”
Kendall said the food drives make a big dent in helping get food to the families who need it most.
“It gives people an opportunity to donate that maybe wouldn’t come here,” she said.
Meyer said preparation for the holidays has been nonstop.
Turkeys are ordered in April for the entire holiday season, and Meyer said the total bulk ends up being roughly 13,000 pounds of turkey.
The food bank has been challenged more this year when the price of turkeys went up about 40 cents per pound more, from 60 cents to over a dollar a pound, Meyer said.
“We’ve had some people step up to help cut that cost down,” he said.
Meyer said every bit of food that comes in is weighed, so they know how much is used, and the rest that isn’t good for human consumption is going out to places like local farms.
In 2017, the food bank processed 1.2 million pounds of food, according to its website.
Meyer said the food bank typically sees a lull in the number of people seeking assistance in October after Permanent Fund Dividend checks hit bank accounts, but as the holiday season approaches and the budget of families returns to normal, demand picks up again.
Thanksgiving dinner will be served between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at the Fireweed Diner area at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, located near the intersection of Gas Well and Kalifornsky Beach roads.