‘It’s way too small’: Palmer Food Bank to relocate

Palmer Food Bank Director Jeanne Borega shows off how crowded the facility is with food...
Palmer Food Bank Director Jeanne Borega shows off how crowded the facility is with food donations at the current facility. They are working to move to a nearby location and build a brand new building.(Taylor Clark)
Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 6:11 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - As the City of Palmer grows, the need for the Palmer Food Bank has grown along with it. Now, the director said the time has come for expansion and growth.

Jeanne Borega has been the director of the Palmer Food Bank since 2012, but she’s been volunteering there for more than 20 years. She said the building housing the food bank has served that role since 1992, but the actual building was built in the early ‘40s.

Every wall is filled to the ceiling with boxes of food and nonperishable goods. Boxes of donations and supplementary food from the federal government make for a tight fit in the small building on South Valley Way.

“It’s too small,” Borega said. “It’s way too small. Right now, we have one client come in at a time because it’s just too small for more than one client.”

Borega said the pandemic has slowed things down with stimulus checks and other aid people have been receiving. Being that it’s October, and PFD checks will be sent out soon, she and the volunteers are in their “slow month” for the year.

However, the need has grown during Borega’s time as director. On any given month, she said between 600 and 1,000 people visit the food bank. It varies, but she said they’ll give out up to 30,000 pounds of food every month.

Right now, Borega said they let clients in one at a time to shop for food because it’s so cramped.

“We want to be able to move around more,” she said. “And have more space, and not worry about when we get food in, ‘where am I gonna put it?’”

So now the plan is to move to a new location. Borega said the food bank bought a lot on the corner of Denali Street and Arctic Avenue. There’s an old boarded up house there now, and the plan is to level it out and build a more modern facility. Borega said the Palmer City Council recently passed a unanimous decision to rezone the building for food bank use.

It’s going to cost some money, though. Borega doesn’t have an official estimate, but said her husband used to work in construction and estimated about a $700,000 cost for the build.

“It’s hard to tell. Prices are going up,” she said. “It’s always more than what you estimate. That’s what I’ve heard. Yeah, it’s going to be a lot of money.”

Borega said she’s already begun the process of reaching out for large donations and grants to fund the new location. She said the hope is for construction to begin in summer 2022.

While she and the regular volunteers have a lot of work ahead of them to make it happen, Borega said they’re all excited to have more room to operate. Even though it’s not a good thing for the need of a food bank to grow, she’s happy that they are able to grow enough to meet the demand of the people who need it in Palmer.

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