Food Bank of Alaska anticipates high demand with inflation in and pandemic aid out

Food Bank of Alaska anticipates high demand with inflation in and pandemic aid out

Volunteers help Alaskans pick up free Thanksgiving groceries at the Mountain View Community Center on Monday. (Elyssa Loughlin/Alaska Public Media)

At the Mountain View Community Center on Monday, the line stretched around the block well before the Food Bank of Alaska’s Thanksgiving Blessing event began.

Maria Mora was there to pick up food for her family. She walked gingerly across the icy pavement, with her grandmother clinging to her side. They made their way to the back of a big truck where volunteers unloaded boxes of food.

“This means a lot,” Mora said. “Especially when you go and see the price on Costco, $82 for a turkey. And I say, ‘Wow, how can we buy that for the family? And then plus everything else?’ So then, now, here, we can get it for free, ’cause community help. That’s a blessing. It is.”

People gather around a truck full of cardboard boxes.
Alaskans pick up free Thanksgiving groceries. (Elyssa Loughlin/Alaska Public Media)

She said COVID-19 made everything harder. And of course, there is inflation. The Wall Street Journal reports that turkeys cost about 30% more than last year, and that the cost of an entire Thanksgiving meal is up about 14%.

The Food Bank of Alaska handed out as many as 10,000 free frozen turkeys and holiday meal kits over the last few days in Anchorage and the Mat-Su.

Rebecca Guyer, the program and agency relations lead at the food bank, said she’s anticipating demand will be up at her organization’s annual Thanksgiving Blessing events with emergency pandemic benefits phasing out.

“A lot of families, you know, have to save their money for bills, other utilities,” Guyer said. “So by providing this event we’re able to help them so they can make their dollar go a little bit further.”

A woman pushing a shopping cart waits to receive a foil pan from a man in a red shirt.
Volunteers Deb Bronson, Mayor Dave Bronson’s wife, and Robert Jackson help families pack up holiday groceries. (Elyssa Loughlin/Alaska Public Media)

Inside the community center on Monday afternoon, a procession of volunteers who called themselves “personal shoppers,” queued up with grocery carts to help residents pick up dry and canned goods. There was stuffing, canned corn and green beans, fresh potatoes and apples, and roasting pans for the turkeys at the end of the line – literally tons of food on tables and shipping pallets to be given away.

This was one of six distribution sites in Anchorage on Monday. Five other sites in the Mat-Su held Thanksgiving Blessing events on Saturday.

Paula Green is running this one, where about 300 people volunteer in shifts over the day. Her church, New Hope Baptist next door, held food drives to collect the ingredients for the sides for this event.

“I think as a body we love to do community service,” Green said. “You know, we do a food pantry, a food bank, every Friday. So this is just another extension of that opportunity to just serve the community.”

A man in a suit and tie and a woman in a green jacket push a shopping cart in front of a table filled with groceries.
Mayor Dave Bronson helps families bag holiday groceries. (Elyssa Loughlin/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson was also among the volunteers.

“We just thought it was a good effort to come out and support,” he said. “You know, giving some food to some folks that need a little extra help this time of year and who knows, maybe next year it’s us, so let’s pay it forward, you know?”

The food bank estimates about 1 in 8 Alaskans struggle with hunger. More information on offering help or getting help is available at foodbankofalaska.org.

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