As a result of months of high gas prices, the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank has already exhausted its budgeted allotment for fuel for the year and has been forced to draw upon other funds.
The food bank has launched an online fundraising page specifically for fuel funding. The money for fuel is necessary so the food bank can maintain delivery service to 40 communities and 70 partner agencies, according to the fundraiser’s website.
Since the fundraiser was launched, 11 donations have managed to raise a total of $1,500, but $10,000 will be needed to keep vehicles fueled through the rest of the year, Lilly Murray, the food bank’s donations and communications manager, said.
The fuel shortage is only one difficulty facing the food bank, as Murray described the ongoing effects of the pandemic and inflation increasing the number of people who need assistance. Since the start of the pandemic, Murray said, they’ve seen demographics shift. For example, an increasing number of younger adults have been coming for support. This is because, Murray said, the food budget is the first to go when people are faced with the price of fuel to get to work, child care, water, electricity, heat and a roof over their heads.
This has caused a significant increase in demand for the food bank even as prices are rising for both food and distribution and as funding is reduced from federal sources like the Emergency Food Assistance Program. According to Murray, the majority of funding for the food bank comes from sponsors and donations, as well as food donations from businesses in the area. Even food donations have been impacted as supply issues have left grocery stores with less to give in valuable stock like produce.
“We’re serving more people with less,” Murray said. The food bank’s diner, which used to feed around 30 people per day, now serves more than 100. The food bank is currently on track to use 2 million pounds of food this year.
On Aug. 20, the food bank will host its largest annual fundraising event, the Soup Supper & Auction at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. An expanded fundraising campaign is targeted to launch there. This begins, Murray said, with a text to donate and QR code campaign for the gas fundraiser.
Murray said a food drive in partnership with the Kenai Walmart is in the works and may run in September. Other programs will be held throughout the year like a Trick-or-Eat food drive in October, held in partnership with the greater Food Bank of Alaska as well as community food banks in Homer and Fairbanks.
To find out more about the food bank’s online fundraiser go to kpfoodbank.org.