Anchorage food pantries report big jump in need

Anchorage food pantries report a big jump in need.
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 4:53 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - At New Hope Compassionate Ministries, the line in front of the South Addition church stretches outside in the rain. It’s Tuesday, and people are waiting for a weekly chance to shop in the basement food pantry or pick up a prepackaged bag of food.

New Hope Director Jason Ellis said the high cost of living is causing their numbers to grow.

“With gas prices being as high as they are, food prices being as high as they are, those types of things,” Ellis said. “When you saw those things go up, that’s when we saw the start to the climb in our numbers going up.”

The New Hope pantry isn’t alone. Catholic Social Service’s St. Francis House Pantry recently set a record.

“We are seeing the highest levels we’ve actually ever seen, even including the pandemic era,” Pantry Director Claire Lubke said. “Five hundred households a week, and 15% of those every month have been people who are brand new to our services, we’ve never seen them before.”

Lubke said most of their clients are struggling with the high cost of living.

“We’re hearing a lot about how expensive it is to feed families, to put fuel in the car, to pay their rent,” she said. “We’re hearing a lot of about just how expensive life is.”

The high cost of living comes at a time when many COVID-era benefits are declining or being eliminated, including higher allowances for federal food assistance, according to Cara Durr with the Food Bank of Alaska.

“I think what nobody was expecting was to have this economic crisis with inflation happening right on the heels of COVID, so unfortunately, the funding and the resources I think are less but the need is certainly not,” Durr said.

September is Hunger Action Month, and Durr said an excellent way that people can help is to donate food or money to the food bank or a local food pantry.

The Food Bank of Alaska website lists lots of donation options and also includes a list of local food pantries.