Todd Duwe hands a food box to Brad Nyquist as Mark Larson looks on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna, Alaska. The church volunteers were distributing food from the United States’ Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program, delivered by the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Todd Duwe hands a food box to Brad Nyquist as Mark Larson looks on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna, Alaska. The church volunteers were distributing food from the United States’ Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program, delivered by the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai extends funding for food boxes

The city council approved another $50,000 to cover the cost of the food boxes from a portion of the city’s unused CARES Act funds.

A program that has distributed weekly bags of food to Kenai residents since September will be extended for another three months, thanks to additional funding from the City of Kenai.

Kenai City Council on Wednesday approved the extension of a grant to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, allocating another $50,000 to cover the cost of the food boxes from a portion of the city’s unused CARES Act funds.

Greg Meyer, executive director of the food bank, told the Clarion on Thursday that he was pleased with the city’s decision, saying that the need for these food boxes shows no signs of slowing down.

“I love this community and am continually amazed at their generosity,” Meyer said while taking a break from filling the boxes in the food bank warehouse.

Milly Perry is the assistant director for the food pantry at Kenai United Methodist Church, which has served as the distribution point for these boxes as well as for the Farms to Families produce boxes that were funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture starting in April of last year. When asked for her reaction to the extension of the program, she described it one word: Relief.

“While this program was at its peak, we were giving out 200 bags or more every Monday,” Perry said. “And we know the demand isn’t going away.”

Perry was one of several Kenai residents who emailed the Kenai City Council asking them to provide additional funds for the program. Those emails were included in the packet for the city council’s Jan. 20 meeting.

“Many of OUR local families need our continued help NOW,” Kenai resident Jack Castimore wrote in a Jan. 10 email to Molloy. “Please continue funding these vital programs during this pandemic.”

“We see first hand the need for help in this community for food and shelter,” Kenai residents Kevin and Peggy Nelson wrote in a Jan. 11 email. “We very much appreciated the CARE funds you provided to the Food bank and so do the people of Kenai.”

The money allocated by the city will pay for 200 boxes a week from February through April, according to a memo from city council members Teea Winger, Henry Knackstedt and Vice Mayor Bob Molloy. Previously, the city had granted $77,000 to pay for the boxes from September through December of last year.

The City of Soldotna also funded a food box program through the food bank from September to December. Meyer said that the Soldotna City Council is considering an additional allocation of funds to extend the program in their community as well.

Meyer and Perry said that even though the original funding from the city ran out in December, the food bank and Kenai United Methodist have been pooling their resources to continue providing weekly food boxes in January, so there has been no actual interruption in the service.

Meyer said the new funds will help the community get through the months leading up to summer, when he’s hoping more options for funding and food will become available.

The food boxes are available at Kenai United Methodist Church from 12:30-3 p.m. every Monday. Perry said that the handful of dedicated church members and volunteers will be outside distributing food every week, regardless of the weather.

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