FAIRBANKS - Food donations are heading to Alaska's rural villages that have been troubled by poor fishing seasons and high oil and gasoline prices.
Businesses, plus state and local leaders began food drives several weeks ago to assist villages during the winter when extreme cold temperatures kicked off the season.
Just recently the village of Kotlik began receiving 4,500 pounds of food.
Once the second shipment arrives and food gets sorted, boxes will be distributed to families, said Kotlik City Council member Lorrena Prince.
That kind of food sharing reflects the village's tradition, Prince said.
"When I was growing up, whenever there was a potlatch, each family and household got a box of food. We treated everybody alike," she said.
Kotlik is one of nearly a half dozen Western Alaska villages identified by the state's Commerce Department with food emergencies.
Often people are faced with a choice of buying food or heating their homes.
Prince said stove oil in Kotlik goes for $7.79 per gallon if paid in cash and $7.85 if charged. Meanwhile gasoline prices are $7.75 per gallon and $7.85 on credit.
Communities along the Yukon River Delta region also seeking help include Emmonak, Nunman Iqua, Alakanuk, Kipnuk and Mountain Village.
Food items, donated by Fairbanks residents and Wal-Mart, included canned fruit and vegetables, plus dry goods such as sugar and flour, Crisco, Pilot bread, Top Ramen and pancake mix.
Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, spearheaded the food drive for Kotlik and other villages needing food.
A member of Ramras' legislative staff said his office will continue to pursue donations for the next month to ensure food relief reaches as many villages as necessary.