This past Saturday The Southeast Alaska Food Bank handed out 1,595 pounds of free food to those in the community that are in need.
However, handing food out directly to the members of the community only happens on Saturday mornings for this food bank. Most of their time is spent supplying other food banks or food pantries around Southeast to places like the Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies (AWARE) shelter, Salvation Army, St. Vinecent de Paul, the Glory Hole, Holy Trinity, Love Inc., Auke Bay Bible Church, Hoonah Baptist Mission and more.
Last fiscal year the Southeast Alaska Food Bank brought in 345,000 pounds of food and gave out 313,000 pounds, setting a record from the previous record year of receiving 289,000 and giving out 274,000. The growing need in the community is unmistakable.
Recently, the Southeast Alaska Food Bank has taken on a new enterprise called the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) working with the Fairbanks Community Food Bank on this government-initiated program. CSFP offers assistance to low-income seniors 60 and over who are struggling to get food. The Fairbanks Community Food Bank asked the Southeast Alaska Food Bank to find 80 individuals who fit the requirements and in doing so will receive 80 boxes a month to be delivered to those individuals. The boxes will include one can of meat, four cans of vegetables, two cans of fruit, two cereals, two lbs. of cheese, one pasta or rice, two UHT milks, one dry beans or peanut butter, one dry milk, (every other month) and two fruit juices. Those who believe they are eligible for this program have to fill out a CSFP application that can be picked up at the Southeast Alaska Food Bank located on Crazy Horse Drive off of Industrial Blvd. For more information call (907)-374-0555. CSFP will start this fall.
“I see this as an opportunity to reach out to the population that might fall between the cracks,” Darren Adams the Director of the Southeast Alaska Food Bank said. “My parents are seniors, I’ve seen first hand the struggles they face… It seems like, ya’ know, a lot of seniors might be able to benefit from this program. This past year is our biggest year as far as poundage in and poundage out; I want to surpass that next year. I see this as a way to help do that. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”
Adams has been managing the Southeast Alaska Food Bank since 2005; he’s currently the only non-volunteer that’s a part of this operation. Although he graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education through the University of Alaska Southeast, he found that his calling was less geared toward teaching and more toward giving.
“It’s never really work when you love what you do,” Adams said. Adams’ is a man of many hats at the food bank but, thankfully, has what he calls an amazing group of volunteers. On average, they have a dozen people helping out on a Saturday morning to make sure everyone who comes to receive food feels assisted.
“Respect is a big thing here,” Adams said. “All these people that come here deserve that.”
Dennis Watson, Chairman of the Board of the Southeast Alaska Food Bank explained how the community has come together to make this food bank a reality. The state gave them the land their building now rests on, for a 25-year lease. Construction companies donated some of the needed materials and part of their time to help construct the Southeast Alaska Food Bank’s building. People from all around town take the time out of their day to donate. Local grocery stores donate too.
“We get a lot of cash donations,” Janet Lutich, one of the full time volunteers said. “After the bills are paid we buy more food.”
Lutich started helping out twice a week at the food bank, but that quickly turned into a full-time, dedicated job as a volunteer. She has been working for them for over seven months now, spending Monday through Friday at the Southeast Alaska Food Bank.
“I do it just to help people,” Lutich said. “It’s fun having all these organizations come in and tell you how many people they are feeding.”
Watson and Adams encourage anyone who is curious about the Southeast Alaska Food Bank and what it is they do, to feel free, to stop by anytime. If anyone has questions or wishes to donate call (907)- 789-6184.
Mackenzie Fisher is a freelance writer living in Juneau.