Data from the United Way of Anchorage shows food bank referrals in Fairbanks nearly quadrupled between 2012 and 2014.
Most other places in Alaska saw less drastic increases, but Fairbanks wasn’t alone, said Sue Brogan, of the United Way of Anchorage.
Southeast referrals more than tripled, while the Kenai Peninsula’s referrals more than doubled. Anchorage saw a 48 percent rise.
Some of the increase may be attributable to greater awareness of the United Way’s 2-1-1 public assistance resource system in Alaska. But Brogan thinks the increase is too large to be entirely attributable to outreach.
The 2-1-1 program connects callers with operators who recommend or refer people in need to resources in their area.
“I would say generally speaking, across the state, when we see a dramatic increase in this type of request and referral it usually has to do with a family’s available resources,” Brogan said. “We looked at the state in its entirety and then these are the things that over a one or two year span have just jumped out at us.”
The top three unmet needs in Fairbanks last year were for rent or utility payment assistance, medical or dental subsidies and bill payment assistance.
The Fairbanks Community Food Bank confirmed on its end what the United Way recorded, saying food pantry requests increased significantly between 2012 and 2014.
Still, Brogan said referrals aren’t on a purely upward trajectory. Food pantry referrals have fallen in the last several months, she said.
The Alaska 2-1-1 has been in operation since 2007, but this is the first time the United Way of Anchorage has examined trend data and put that data in its annual report, she said.