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

Central Emergency Services staff wait to receive doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna, borough to continue 911 dispatch partnership

The assembly approved an agreement Tuesday

Alaska State Troopers logo.
ATV accident leaves teen dead in Ninilchik

A 15-year-old girl was driving an ATV with a 14-year-old female passenger

Cook Inlet can be seen at low tide from North Kenai Beach on June 15, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Comment period on proposed Cook Inlet lease sale opens Friday

Cook Inlet is one of 11 locations described in the department’s Proposed Program for the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program

Pottery pieces are displayed as a part of the Kenai Potters’ Guild July show at the Kenai Art Center on Tuesday, July 5, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Throwing together

Potters’ Guild artists show off their clay creations

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire
This photo shows boats moored at Don D. Statter Harbor on a recent sunny day. According to statistics recently release by the U.S. Coast Guard, boating accidents were down in Alaska in 2021.
Boating fatalities trending down for 2021

Numbers met expectations, said safety instructors

Fishermen took to the mouth of the Kasilof River for opening day of dipnetting, on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion file)
Kasilof dipnetting expanded, sockeye catch upped

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued multiple advisory announcements for sport anglers and dipnetters

Signs warn Fred Meyer customers to prepay if they thing they may go over limits while pumping gas on Friday, March 11, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Analysis: Inflation is up in Alaska

Alaska’s 2021 average inflation rate was the largest annual price increase since 1990

Mount Redoubt can be seen acoss Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Offshore oil plan envisions a single Cook Inlet sale

The proposed 2023-2028 plan is similar to the just-ended Obama administration five-year plan

People line the streets in downtown Kenai, Alaska on Monday, July 4, 2022 for the annual Independence Day parade. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Red, white and blue all day

Kenai turns out for parade, activities to celebrate Independence Day

Most Read