Kenai Peninsula Food Banks staff and volunteers assemble food bags for the cities of Kenai and Soldotna recently at the food bank near Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kenai Peninsula Food Bank)

Kenai Peninsula Food Banks staff and volunteers assemble food bags for the cities of Kenai and Soldotna recently at the food bank near Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kenai Peninsula Food Bank)

Food Bank keeps setting records

The food bank distributed 267,000 pounds of food in October.

The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, a nonprofit just outside the city of Soldotna, keeps smashing food distribution records.

“Our area was as hard hit as any in the state because of fishing, tourism, no cruise ships,” Greg Meyer, executive director at the food bank, said. “There were a lot of other downturns, like people not working on the slope.

“Part of it is COVID, and part of it is just economic conditions at the moment.”

The food bank distributed 267,000 pounds of food in October. Meyer said that is the most ever distributed by the food bank, which opened in 1988. As a point of reference, 80,000 pounds were distributed in October 2019. The takeout meals from the diner also are running about triple from last year.

The food bank has been breaking records for a while now, distributing 197,000 pounds in August and 217,000 pounds in September.

“Part of it is that we’ve had access to special programs that allow us to do more,” Meyer said.

The food bank has gotten large injections of coronavirus relief bill funding from the cities of Soldotna and Kenai. Soldotna gave $250,000, then an additional $34,000. Kenai gave $65,000, then an additional $12,000.

Thanks to the money from the cities, Meyer said the food bank is assembling 800 food bags each Saturday and Sunday, then distributing the bags in Kenai on Monday and Soldotna on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Meyer said everything in the bags is shelf-stable, meaning items like soups, canned meats, pastas, granola bars and even milk.

According to Meyer, one big reason all the items are shelf-stable is that the food bags program is set to end at the end of December, if there is not another government program.

“It’s going to be a real challenge come January,” Meyer said. “That’s why we’re getting the bags out. We’re hoping it will give people the chance to stock up a bit.”

Adding to that challenge is the smaller number of food drives this year because so many places have scaled back due to the new coronavirus pandemic.

Meyer said the food bank’s staff of 11, plus two part-time workers, has not increased. The food bank also has 20 volunteers. Normally, there are 10 times that number of volunteers, but Meyer said that number has been cut in order to put coronavirus mitigation measures in place.

So far, Meyer said the measures are working and the virus hasn’t spread through staff or volunteers. Meyer said the measures can mean volunteers and staff are working outside in cold, tough conditions.

“This community is so supportive and generous,” Meyer said. “Everybody is tired of COVID. What’s going on here, so people can get their food, I can never express enough gratitude for that.”

Meyer said the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program also is starting up again. The USDA purchases produce and milk from farmers and distributes it to those in need.

According to Meyer, this is the fourth round of the program. This current round will end in December.

Meyer said the program has been a challenge because the items are perishable.

“Our trucks can cool, but they don’t heat,” Meyer said. “We’ve had to shuffle a lot of things around to keep things from freezing. Fortunately, we have a lot of hardy, tough volunteers that can do that.”

With so much going on, and with so many other organizations taking on Thanksgiving, Meyer said the food bank has mostly opted out of the holiday.

With help from Marathon Oil, the food bank did buy a semi load of turkeys at a very reasonable price and is making them available to pantries across the peninsula.

Meyer said the community can help in two ways right now.

Donations of shelf stable items are always important as families look to stock their pantries for the winter.

Cash donations are also important. While Soldotna and Kenai paid for the transportation costs associated with the food bags, Meyer said the Farmers to Families program does not include the cost of picking up the food in Anchorage, then distributing that food across the peninsula.

More in News

Alaska Native illustrator Michaela Goade became the first Native American or Alaska Native to win the Caldecott Award on Jan. 25 for her work on “We Are Water Protectors,” about the defenders of Standing Rock Reservation. (Courtesy photo / Sydney Akagi)
‘It just feels very surreal’: a Q&A with Southeast’s recent Caldecott Medal winner

The prestigious award for her illustration work tails her Google Doodle being featured in December.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough administration building photographed on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Top priorities for CARES funds include businesses, nonprofits, seniors

The borough allocated its nearly $37.5 million in CARES Act dollars toward 24 different projects

Staff, lawmakers and members of the press gather for the first Senate Judiciary Committee meeting of the 32nd Legislature on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. While Senators moved ahead with work, the House of Representatives was once again unable to organize. (Peter Segall /  Juneau Empire)
Deadlock continues as senators forge ahead

Only one member of the House Coalition — a 20-member group of mostly Democrats that also includes independents and a Republican — attended Wednesday’s floor session.

COVID-19. (Image via CDC)
Borough positivity rate drops below 1%

Four new cases were reported on the peninsula, all in Seward

State officials brief members of the media on Tuesday, Jan. 26 in Alaska. (Screenshot)
1st case of UK COVID variant announced

The variant was detected in an Anchorage resident who tested positive last month

President Joe Biden answers questions from reporters in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
AP sources: Biden to pause oil, gas sales on public lands

Environmental groups hailed the expected moratorium as the kind of bold, urgent action needed to slow climate change.

Clayton Holland
Holland to be next superintendent

The board unanimously supported Holland, who will take over from O’Brien later this year

This photo shows a sign marking the Division of Motor Vehicles office in the Mendenhall Valley area of Juneau. Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka announced Monday that she was ordering a review of Division of Motor Vehicles’ processes to determine how plates reading “3REICH” were issued. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
State to investigate issuance of offensive license plate

Division of Motor Vehicles plans to investigate the issuance of “3REICH” personalized license plates

Most Read