The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank celebrated its relaunch with a barbecue and a grand reopening of the indoor diner this week after nearly a year and a half operating under strict COVID-19 restrictions.
Greg Meyer, executive director of the food bank in Soldotna, said everyone who came by on Wednesday seemed excited about being able to gather again.
“It was definitely well received,” Meyer told the Clarion on Thursday.
He said the last time they were able to have indoor seating was Saint Patrick’s Day of 2020, and afterward the food bank administered to-go meals. Meyer said some people would eat in their cars or even outside during the winter months.
“At times we were serving four times as many meals as normal,” he said about the peak of the pandemic months.
Now, the dining room is open at 50% capacity.
“Everyone was so happy and I think they were pleased with the changes that we made,” Meyer said.
He and the team added more tables and chairs and renovated parts of the kitchen and dining room in an effort to both improve the quality of the space and allow for more social distancing. They also have increased their menu items so patrons have more dining options.
“I think everything rolled out well,” Meyer said.
The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank serves approximately 25,000 square miles on the Kenai Peninsula and supports 72 pantries.
Meyer said they have worked with their partners throughout the pandemic, as well as the Borough Office of Emergency Management to offer COVID-19 vaccine clinics on-site.
“The community has met every need that we had,” Meyer said.
Looking ahead, he said he’s unsure when they’ll be open at 100% indoor capacity. For now, they’re just working to comply with state and federal guidelines.
“We’re all in it together, muddling through,” Meyer said.
Reach reporter Camille Botello at firstname.lastname@example.org.