A year ago, as the pandemic settled in, Anchorage Chamber of Commerce business members were in the terrible position of having to lay off valued employees or cut their hours and reduce expenses. Many who had always been self-reliant were unable for the first time in their lives to pay the rent or even put food on the table for their families. Hunger among Alaskans rose 32% across the state, with one in six of our fellow citizens unable to depend on their next meal.
Among our committed Anchorage Chamber members is Food Bank of Alaska, which supplies 80 food pantry and meal program partners in the Municipality of Anchorage and another 70 partners throughout the state. The Chamber has been a supporter of their mission, encouraging our members to participate in feeding their neighbors through food drives and other efforts.
We were especially impressed watching Food Bank of Alaska scale up quickly last year to meet the unprecedented need prompted by the pandemic. The organization distributed 43% more food during the last six months of 2020 than during the same period in 2019! Not many businesses could scale up that fast, especially while converting to a new distribution method. The organization suddenly had to box food in order to maintain distancing while recruiting a new cohort of volunteers for the extra work this requires.
And, most remarkably, Food Bank of Alaska distributed 11 million pounds of food in calendar year 2020 with a warehouse that accommodated three million pounds per year when they moved in almost 25 years ago. The organization was only able to respond to the need at this high level because of donated warehouse space.
Food Bank of Alaska needs the capacity to handle emergencies without depending on donated warehouse space. However, they are also committed to the long-term mission of ending hunger. This means serving families still focused on survival who will need time to recover from the impact of the pandemic, expanding the amount of food they can distribute and the number of rural communities they can serve, and closing the meal gap, not just for now, but also for the next generation.
Last fall, Food Bank of Alaska purchased a bigger warehouse that will have room for triple the freezer and cooler capacity, room to ship more to rural Alaska, and dedicated volunteer workspace. The generosity of individuals, corporations, and foundations who have already donated to the organization’s Nourish Alaska’s Future capital campaign has brought them almost to their goal, but now they need you.
We know the difference we’re able to make for our communities when we pull together, especially during challenging times like these. Many of you have already shown incredible generosity and compassion for your neighbors in need during this difficult time. Thank you!
Will you consider a special donation, if you are able, to help Food Bank of Alaska finish remodeling and equipping the bigger warehouse so they can move in this summer? If so, let me assure you that your support will have a real and positive impact. When families have enough food so they can focus on a better future and not just on their next meal, you help them recover, but not just them — their employers also and our economy as a whole.
I urge you to explore the organization’s website, foodbankofalaska.org/future, for details and ways you can give. You will enable Food Bank of Alaska to serve more of our neighbors and move us closer to a vision of Alaska communities where no one faces hunger.
Bruce Bustamante is the president and CEO of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and has lived and worked in Anchorage for more than 29 years.
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