Food programs in Alaska set to diminish, end during pandemic

Kenai faces food distribution challenges due to federal funding issues.
Kenai faces food distribution challenges due to federal funding issues.(KTVF)
Published: Dec. 28, 2020 at 4:17 PM AKST
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KENAI, Alaska (AP) - A federal food distribution program that provides boxes of produce and other food in Alaska is expected to end this month, raising concerns among the many volunteers in the state who provide food to families in need as many struggle during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kenai Peninsula Food Bank Executive Director Greg Meyer said the food bank will distribute the last 3,000 boxes through Monday, ending the program, The Peninsula Clarion reported Wednesday.

The boxes are part of the current round of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program. It is unclear if the program will continue next year.

Kathy Carson, coordinator of the Soldotna Food Pantry, expressed similar concern after seeing long lines of vehicles driving through Christ Lutheran Church on Tuesday to receive boxes and bags of food.

“There’s no reason any family should go hungry in the United States. Period,” Carson said. “I want to make sure families have good, nutritious food.”

The bags are part of local programs started by the cities of Kenai and Soldotna with coronavirus relief package funds, she said. The food bank received about $280,000 from Soldotna and about $75,000 from Kenai.

Volunteers have been able to distribute more than 800 bags a week in the cities since October, but that program is expected to be significantly reduced after next week.

“I have spent sleepless nights trying to figure out how we’re going to meet that need,” Carson said, attributing the high demand to the pandemic. “It’s very concerning.”

The program is done in Kenai after next week, Meyer said. In Soldotna, it will be reduced to 400 bags a week in January before also ending.

Both Carson and Meyer have said they plan to draw on community support to fill the need, seeking shelf-stable food donations, cash donations and more volunteers.

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