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Kenai Peninsula Food Bank runs out of fuel money

 The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank is holding its Spring Festival tomorrow.
Sabine Poux
The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank ran through its yearly food budget by the summer this year.

The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank delivers food to more than 40 communities on the peninsula. That takes a lot of fuel.

This year, after dealing with exceptionally high gas prices, the food bank burned through its entire fuel budget for the year by the summer. Now, they’re organizing a fundraiser to rebuild that budget.

The food bank uses diesel fuel to power its large delivery trucks. Diesel is currently averaging around $6 a gallon in Alaska. The food bank works with more than 70 partner agencies around the peninsula to get food out to every hungry community, from Homer to Hope.

“We’re pretty deep in the hole for fuel, but it’s one of our essential things. We have to be able to deliver out to those places, otherwise people go hungry,” Lilly Murray, the coordinator for the fundraiser, said.

She said the Kenai Peninsula Borough is the 13th most food insecure borough in the state, so the Food Bank tries to do what it can to combat that.

It’s also in the process of setting up a TEFAP distribution center on the southern peninsula, which will require even more fuel. The federal Emergency Food Assistance Program provides emergency food assistance for free to low-income American families. The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank would be involved in the delivery of food boxes for the program.

“Basically, fuel is an essential part of our mission to feed people here on the Kenai Peninsula, and without it we can’t do what we need,” Murray said.

Thus far, the food bank has been dealing with the fuel deficit by using funds from other parts of the budget. But this is causing shortages in other areas, so the food bank is coordinating a fundraiser to deal with those fuel charges.

The fundraiser kicked off with a Food Bank at the Park event for Progress Days in Soldotna, collecting nonperishable food items and cash that went toward the fuel budget. The food bank also launched a new fundraising portal on its website, where anyone can donate.

It’s currently seeking contracts with fuel distributors on the peninsula to get discounts on fuel.

And Murray said because of the uncertainty of fuel costs in the future, fundraising will likely continue through the rest of the year.

For now, the food bank will continue to draw on any funds it has to get food delivered around the peninsula.

“We do the best that we absolutely can to help everybody, and we don’t want to cut off services. So as long as we possibly can, as long as there’s money in the bank, we’re going to keep doing what we can to keep serving our 40 communities,” Murray said.

The food bank is working on setting up a text-to-donate feature to make donating easier, but in the meantime, is the place to go to donate.

Riley Board is a Report For America reporter covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula for KDLL.