Soup’s on for Kenai Peninsula Food Bank fundraiser

On Saturday the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank will be hosting the 21st installment of its annual Soup Supper and Auction, a dinner event that food bank executive director Linda Swarner said raises between 15 to 20 percent of the food bank’s cash budget.

“We’re having to feed more hungry people on the peninsula, so we’re needing to raise more money,” Swarner said. “… We’re seeing approximately 800 families a month just asking for food assistance, and that doesn’t include the individuals who come into the Fireweed Diner (soup kitchen) and have lunch, which is open every day Monday through Friday.”

Last year the food bank served an average 769 families a month, up from an average of 609 families a month in 2012, Swarner said. Since Alaska entered the present economic downturn, “we’ve seen families that were just getting by aren’t getting by as easily,” she said.

The food bank’s expenses include gas, heat, light, insurance, salaries, and the gasoline used by trucks in the food bank’s direct service program, which make daily runs to pick up donated food from grocery stores and fish processors. While other funds come from individual and business donations, United Way charitable funding, and the Pick Click Give program — which encourages Alaskans to donate from their permanent fund dividend checks — the money raised by the Soup Supper and Auction has stayed steady over the years, Swarner said. The food pantry’s other fundraising event, the Clash of the Culinary Kings cooking competition, is smaller in comparison.

Like the food bank’s soup suppers before it, this weekend’s will be an “empty bowl” event — a fundraising concept created in 1990 by a Michighan art teacher, in which local potters donate artistic clay bowls for diners to purchase and fill with soup. Attendees — who have numbered about 400 in the past — will be able to ladel these artistic bowls full with offers from local restaurants and caterers such as Louie’s, the Fine Thyme Cafe, Mykel’s, the Flats, and others. The soups include tomato basil, clam chowder, a vegetarian soup, and a food bank soup supper favorite, halibut chowder. There will be several chef’s choice soups as well.

The auction, Swarner said, “has something for everybody — from a halibut rod to a pie for dessert.” Specific items include Native artwork, artwork by the local lithographer Jim Evenson, quilts, 25,000 Alaska Airlines miles, a trip from Anchorage to Fairbanks on the Alaska Railroad, another train trip from Anchorage to Denali with two nights at the Princess Lodge, and a raffle — limited to 100 tickets, available for $100 each — for two round-trip tickets to any Alaska Airlines destination except Cuba.

As in past soup supper auctions, Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) will serve as auctioneer and Triumvirate Theatre president Joe Rizzo will be master of ceremonies.

The supper will start at 5 p.m at Kenai Central High School. Tickets are $50, and available at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank or on its website.

Reach Ben Boettger at benjamin.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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