Between the wind-down of pandemic-era benefits and skyrocketing prices at the gas pump and on grocery shelves, many Alaskans need help feeding themselves and their families right now.
Each of the approximately 97,000 Alaskans who receive food stamps will lose a portion of benefits after August. Food aid agencies and organizations say they’re seeing high levels of need as pandemic relief programs like rental assistance and the child tax credit wane.
Over the last 12 months, grocery prices rose almost 12%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
According to Cara Durr with the Food Bank of Alaska, donations are low right now compared to typical summers. That’s concerning given the high level of need, she said.
Wondering how you can help? Here are some ways to get involved:
• Donate food directly to the Food Bank of Alaska. Among the most helpful items are whole grains, dried fruit, canned produce and proteins, plus nut butters, shelf-stable milks and prepared meals. The Food Bank of Alaska collects donations, and then other agencies come and shop for what they need.
• Host a food drive. You need to register with the Food Bank and pick up a barrel, then eventually drop off the donations.
• Find and donate to a local food pantry in your community. The Food Bank maintains a list on its website of partner organizations, including food pantries across the state and off the road system.
• Check in with aid organizations to see if they have specific needs or a wish list. For example, Bean’s Cafe, which is providing meals to people in need around the city, needs items like lunch meats, bread, tortillas, peanut butter and jelly, individual condiments, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, pudding cups, fruit cups, Jell-O, chips, granola bars, cookies, sliced cheeses, tuna, bottled water, cans of soda and juice, said Kaytlynn Douthit, administrative manager for the food service department. Claire Lubke, program director at the St. Francis House Food Pantry, said they’re low on most things but that ready-to-eat, individually sized food that needs minimal preparation is particularly helpful right now.
• When donating to the Food Bank, don’t worry too much about expiration dates. According to Durr, the Food Bank has a team of volunteers who sort through donated goods, and whatever is unsafe for human consumption will get donated to pig farms to avoid it ending up in a landfill.
• Bring cans to soup kitchens. Bulk cans are especially helpful for soup kitchens like Downtown Hope Center, according to their community relations coordinator, Savannah Henson. They tend to need items that make up the components of soup, including bulk tomatoes, rice, potatoes, onions and celery, as well as bread.
• Help fill a community fridge. A community food fridge recently opened in Anchorage’s Mountain View neighborhood, and they take donations including fresh fruits and vegetables, nonperishable pantry items, sealed homemade meals that are labeled with ingredients and preparation dates, pet food, hygiene products and baby food and formula.
• Volunteer. The Food Bank is low on volunteers right now, which is a good way to help. Downtown Hope Center is also looking for volunteers to serve meals on Sunday. Anchorage’s community food fridge has a volunteer interest form on their site: foodforthoughtalaska.com/how-to-help.
• Give money. Multiple organizations also said cash donations can be helpful as well.