‘A tsunami of need coming our way': Food Bank of Alaska gearing up for CARES Act unemployment possibly ending

A volunteer at the Food Bank of Alaska restocking items
A volunteer at the Food Bank of Alaska restocking items(Taylor Clark)
Published: Jul. 27, 2020 at 7:29 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Tens of thousands of Alaskans have been faced with food insecurity since the pandemic started according to the Food Bank of Alaska. Leaders there have seen the number of people asking for help recently stabilized, and they attribute much of that to an extra $600 a week for people on unemployment that could run out at the end of the month.

Director of Public Engagement for the Food Bank of Alaska, Cara Durr, said food insecurity is measured by a third party every six months. In January, she said about 95,000 people statewide were experiencing food insecurity. Since then, the numbers show that rate has jumped up by 44%, adding about 42,000 to that count.

“Recently, it’s leveled off a bit,” Durr said. “Definitely still elevated, but right now we’re just concerned about what happens at the end of the month if those unemployment boosts that the federal government has been providing run out.”

Durr said the food bank has been on the receiving end of numerous federal resources, help from donors, and help from local donations and food drives to meet the demand. She said if resources and benefits run out, compassion can only go so far to feed people.

“We’re all struggling,” she said. “And as this wears on, we may have tapped into the generosity and this can’t continue in perpetuity.”

However, they have been getting a lot of food throughout the pandemic. Durr said they’ve been “pretty maxed out” at their current storage facility and are looking to secure additional storage.

That being said, food goes fast and moves throughout much of the state quickly. When Channel 2 reporters spoke to Durr on Monday, there was considerable shelf space throughout the current warehouse.

While they wait to find out the fate of the extra benefits, Durr said the food bank and their partners have been working with the Alaska congressional delegation to get more support from Washington.

On top of advocating for the extended benefits, she said they’ve been working with them to get more boosts to SNAP and EBT programs, as well as funding and capacity resources for food banks across the board.

A lot of the pieces are in motion to make sure people eat in the short term, but Durr said they are already thinking about how long they could potentially be trying to meet an increased need.

“We know this is going to be an ongoing situation. We know that even when the pandemic ends there’s probably going to be a very long economic recovery associated with this. So we know the need is going to be very long term and that’s where we’re trying to put our minds,” she said.

The Food Bank of Alaska has 150 partners across the state according to Durr. She said people who need help can find a center near them either here or by calling 211.

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