Food bank turns focus to food security at Spring Festival
The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank is holding its Spring Festival tomorrow.
Among the plates of fresh food and demonstrations, there will be booths with information on two national food security programs – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, otherwise known as WIC.
Lilly Murray, with the food bank, says those programs are seeing higher use now as families face sky-high grocery prices and fallout from the pandemic.
“The use of all of these programs, including the food bank, is going up exponentially," Murray said. "We found that even the state of food insecurity on the Kenai Peninsula has changed drastically.”
She said the base of people the food bank is serving is more varied than it used to be, as well.
“I think it’s somewhere around 40 percent of the people that we see, they have multiple jobs, they have higher levels of education, so at least high school level or above," she said. "And then we’re seeing a lot of families, too, and more elderly people, and then a lot of kids as well. So the face of food insecurity is definitely changing across the Kenai Peninsula. And it’s definitely not getting better, it’s actually getting worse.”
Murray said she hopes getting the word out about SNAP and WIC can be a help.
The food bank distributes food but it isn’t allowed to offer financial assistance or food tickets. With SNAP, participants can go into stores and get the food they need to round out meals from the bank.
And WIC offers programs beyond nutritional benefits, including health-care referrals and housing help. Both programs are funded by the USDA.
The bank is also raising money at the festival for its own efforts to address food insecurity. It’s looking to match a $5,000 grant from Cook Inlet Region, Inc.
There will be food from the food bank’s chef, Stephen Lamm, as well as a raffle.
The Challenger Learning Center is also doing a demonstration on sustainable living. The center has been building out a food security program of its own using a grant from NASA.
“They have found that harvesting and local growing and things like that are the best way to supplement food security down here," Murray said.
The Kenai Local Food Connection is doing a kid seed planting station and 4-H will have a petting zoo. All that at the Spring Festival — Friday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.