The coronavirus pandemic has had a particularly tough economic impact on the food-service industry. Restaurants, caterers and other food businesses that usually purchase Alaska-grown produce have canceled or drastically cut back their orders this year, leaving local farmers with a surplus of produce. The USDA is buying excess food and making it available to food banks.
“And then food banks, at their own cost, are distributing it in their areas. So we’ve been sending trucks up to Anchorage two to three times a week, bringing down pallets of fresh produce and milk and distributing it throughout the whole, entire Kenai Peninsula,” said Randi Smith, head of donor relations at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. “So that’s helped everyone because there’s no income qualification or nothing like that. It’s just, ‘This is here, if you need it, take it.’”
On the peninsula, rather than make everyone come to the food bank, the food bank is bringing food to communities by partnering with churches and other organizations for distribution. Boxes of food have been distributed at the Kenai, Soldotna and North Star United Methodist churches, the Hospice office on the Kenai Spur Highway in Soldotna, in Hope, in Homer and other places in between.
As Smith said, there are no income requirements or paperwork involved. It’s for anyone who wants or needs food. On Saturday, distribution will be at 9 a.m. at the food bank and 10 a.m. at Kenai United Methodist Church. Keep an eye on the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank page on Facebook for upcoming distribution spots.
Smith says the need for food has risen since COVID-19.
“The demand is pretty huge as far as people coming for lunches. We are serving more lunches,” she said.
Smith says community partners and donors have remained strong but the coronavirus has thrown a wrench in fundraising. The food bank usually holds its annual Soup Supper in August, which is its biggest fundraiser of the year. But the in-person gathering has been tabled this year. Instead, it’s a cyber Soup Supper.
“We revised how much we were hoping to make and just are grateful for our supporters (and) sponsors. Our sponsors stepped up and stood with us anyway, even through the changes. But, you know, we’re just like everybody else, we’re adapting, doing the best we can with what we’ve got," Smith said.
You still get a hand-made bowl from the Kenai Potters Guild and are entered to win prize drawings. The grand prize — including Alaska Railroad tickets, a family SeaLife Center membership and lots of other gift cards and prizes — will be drawn Saturday.
The food bank is also raffling off two round-trip tickets on Alaska Airlines and a side-by-side. Those are being drawn Saturday, as well. Which means today is the last day to get tickets. Tickets for the Soup Supper and side-by-side are $50 each, and the plane ticket raffle is $100. Call 714-2166.