Alaska food pantries say need for food assistance continues to grow

People are served at a mobile food bank in Anchorage during Hunger Action Month
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 5:00 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - During the COVID-19 pandemic, many food pantries reported record numbers of people showing up at their doors in need of food assistance, but the need hasn’t gone away, according to Cara Durr with the Food Bank of Alaska.

“This year, we have seen record need among our partners, many are reporting record months, record years,” Durr said.

Alan Budahl, Director of Lutheran Social Services, said the mobile food pantry it operates has experienced a steady rise in the number of people served.

“We do anywhere from 180 to 245 families a week,” Budahl said. “Last week was 243.”

The drive-through pantry is held every Tuesday in the parking lot of an Anchorage church. Organizers said the line of cars waiting often starts an hour before the handouts begin.

A recent visit found a diverse crowd asking for help, including a mother who said she was feeding five children, a man who said his paycheck didn’t stretch enough to feed his family, and a couple who said they were homeless and drove in from the Mat-Su.

“We’ve been homeless for a year now, living in a garage [with] no plumbing or anything,” the man said. “We come down here once a month from Wasilla, we go to all the food banks we can, and then go home. And then that’s our food for the month.”

Budahl said seniors are often in the line as well.

“The main reason [for] seniors is food stamps,” Budahl said. “If they do get them, there’s probably $19 or $20 a month. And that doesn’t go very far in the grocery stores these days.”

Anchorage food pantries say they rely on donations to help fill their shelves as well as purchasing food from the Food Bank of Alaska. They are urging people to get involved, especially in September, which is Hunger Action Month.

The Food Bank has lots of ideas. Channel 2 and CBS 5 have also formed a partnership to help shine a light on hunger issues in Alaska as well as how people can help.