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Dig into food bank's new festival

The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank had a Spring Festival and Fundraiser on May 31 with free food, live music, beer and wine, raffles, games and, more than anything, a chance to get to know the food bank. KDLL’s Jenny Neyman visited the festival and sent back this report:

Along with new staff comes a new community event. Greg Meyer is the executive director of the food bank.

“We wanted to do something to say thank you to the community for all their support and something that everyone was able to come to,” he said. “So we wanted to include the people that come and eat in the Fireweed Diner, we wanted to include kids to come so we have games for them and prizes. And we just wanted it to be a community event.

Nancy Croker was enjoying the festive atmosphere for lunch.

“I come here every day to have lunch and stuff, and I enjoy the people,” she said.

Neyman: So what was on the menu?

“Brats. And — that’s what I ordered. There’s other stuff, too, but I only ordered a brat.”

Neyman: And what do you have going on there?

“I wanted a root beer float and somebody got me one and I had coffee and a soda and now I got my hands full,” she said.

A group from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Soldotna was dishing up food in the Fireweed Diner. Ludy Link has been volunteering with the group for about two years now.

Neyman: What are you guys serving?

“We’re serving potato salad, brats and hot dogs and baked beans,” Ludy said. “And then we have chips and kind of like a trail mix. Then they’re selling root beer floats and sundaes in the back for a dollar. And then they have a free cake walk and games here, and it’s just to bring the community together.”

Neyman: What do you enjoy about doing this that keeps you coming back?

“I guess just seeing everyone. You know, seeing everyone in the community and seeing them in different aspects of life. Some of them are needy, some of them maybe lost their job and they need a lift up, and so they come in here and eat. So I usually know a lot of these people.”

Liam Hartman, of Soldotna, was handing out beanbags and prizes in the games area.

“Well, we got conk the crow — you throw little bean bags at the crows to try to knock them down. If you get one of them down you, get a prize if you get all three of them down you get two prizes. Then we’ve got a cake walk and cornhole,” Hartman said.

Neyman: And how is the food bank doing, in general, these days as far as donations, as far as people needing services?

“We have seen an increase, which is normal in the summer,” Meyer said. “We have more people that are here, maybe working seasonally. We are seeing a lot more families in the diner, which is awesome, now that schools are closed. So our numbers that we’re feeding both in the diner with meals and food we’re distributing is increased, and, as always, we see a huge amount of support during the holiday season and it tends to slow down a little bit in the summertime. So we’re holding our own but we could use more nonperishable-type items, especially canned fruit, canned vegetables, canned meat.

“We are actually kicking off on June 11, we’re going to start our meals on Tuesday nights, and our goal is to expand it to every evening of the week but right now we’re going to focus on Tuesdays and that’s going to be in conjunction with our farmers market that will be here from 3 to 6. We’ll be doing a free meal from 5 to 6 every Tuesday and we have lined up a bunch of community members to do some really interesting classes along with the meal.”

This new spring festival does not take the place of the food bank’s annual Soup Supper and Auction, which will be held Aug. 24 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. Tickets for the Soup Supper were on sale at the festival, as well as raffle tickets for two Alaska Airlines tickets and a Polaris side-by-side. Winners will be drawn at the Soup Supper, and tickets are still available at the food bank. Meyer hopes that, after the festival, more people in the community now know where the food bank is and what they’re about.

“We just want to say thank you we want you to come out and eat some food so we get a chance to say thank you and that you can see our facility,” Meyer said. “But the most important thing is just come out and let us feed you.”

Jenny Neyman has been the general manager of KDLL since 2017. Before that she was a reporter and the Morning Edition host at KDLL.
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