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Food Bank's Soup Supper keeps growing into 21st year

The 21st annual Soup Supper Fundraiser for the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank is on Saturday, as part of the fifth Harvest Moon Local Food Festival. The first few "empty bowl" soup dinners were rather modest, compared to what the event has grown into, according to executive director Linda Swarner.

"There were tables and chairs set up in the warehouse. And people could come and get soup served from the kitchen and go sit in the warehouse. One thing that has been consistent is the bowls made by local potters - that's why it's called an 'empty bowl event,'" she said. "And then we went to the Sports Center, and that room was too small so then we did it for a year or two out at Kenai Landing, and then we went to Kenai Central High School where we are now, because the attendance has grown so much. And our auction items have increased and we needed the extra space."

In addition to the soups, Swarner says there are raffles and auctions to help raise funds for the Food Bank.

"We have a raffle for Alaska Airlines for two roundtrip tickets to where they fly, except for Cuba. Those tickets are a hundred dollars, and we are only selling 100 of those. And some auction items, are some Alaskan art; we have some carvings out of soapstone that includes some ivory; we have some other artwork," Swarner said. "We have trips. From GCI we have 25,000 Alaska Airline miles, we have a trip out of Seward, a fly-in fishing trip, and I believe that will be a raffle item. So we have something for everyone."

But the main attraction is, naturally, the main course: all the soups. All but one is donated by area restaurants.

"We're going to have our halibut chowder that we do here at the Fireweed Diner. And we're going to have a truly vegan soup for individuals with those dietary needs," said Brandi Kerley, the food bank's new development director. "And then we'll have clam chowder, we'll have cows in the pea pasture soup, a sausage and vegetable soup, chicken noodle or turkey noodle, I'm not sure which, and tomato basil with bagel croutons. So many, many different varieties for everyone's tastes."

The dinner is on Saturday, with doors opening at Kenai Central High School at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 and available at the Food Bank or online. With demand high, Swarner recommends purchasing them in advance.