Wednesday afternoon I participated in a conversation with other faith-based and non-profit agencies that work at sharing and distributing food to those who may not be food-secure. Nine different agencies and churches were represented in a round table discussion sponsored by United Way and the Juneau Cooperative Council of Churches.
Clearly the amount of food available is not the issue. There is plenty of food in Juneau. What is lacking is an organizational structure to supply those in need with efficiency and accountability.
What became apparent in the discussion is that the number of clients served in the various organizations has doubled, tripled and even quadrupled in these difficult economic times.
The Glory Hole serves about 53,000 meals a year. The SouthEast Alaska Food bank regularly distributes somewhere between 800 pounds to several thousands of pounds of food in any given week. The face of those who are hungry can no longer be stereotyped as the single man who may or may not have a roof over his head. Now the faces of the hungry are grandparents who have taken in their children and grandchildren. The faces of the hungry includes working families whose parents work two or even three jobs. Some families find themselves at the food pantry due to their financial resources being absorbed by medical costs or childcare or transportation.
As we went around the table and shared all the good work that was being done, the challenges were also laid out for us to ponder. Some food pantries experience food shortages at the end of the month. Sometimes the variety of food available is slim (lots of peanut butter). Often, well-meaning organizations do their food drives during the same time of year. This results in an abundance of food some months and a scarcity of food during other times of the year.
Ability to get to these existing agencies is also a problem. Not everyone has a car and some of these agencies are a long way from the bus stop. Summer, winter and spring breaks pose a whole new dilemma for children who rely on their schools food programs. What do these children do when school is closed? Many go hungry.
As we each shared the ways our agencies cared for those who are food-insecure, I realized there is indeed a lot of food, there are also a lot of volunteers. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of hungry people. If you are looking for a place to volunteer, contact United Way. If you are looking for help in feeding your household, refer to the list of community food resources now available.
• Glory Hole - 586-4159
• Helping Hands Food Bank - 789-4390
• South East Alaska Food Bank – 789-6184
• The Salvation Army – 586-2136
• Douglas Community United Methodist Church – 364-2408
• Resurrection Lutheran Church – 586-2380
• Shepherd of the Valley Church – 789-4093
• St. Brendan’s Episcopal Church – 789-5152
A big thank you to United Way and the Juneau Cooperative Council of Churches as they lead the way in eliminating hunger in our community.
• Rev. Susan Boegli is a pastor at Aldersgate United Methodist Church.