Food insecurity has risen on Kodiak Island recently. It comes as food stamps and other state-provided aid have been unreliable for months, leaving folks in need to rely on food banks more than normal on the island.
Majors Dave and Lola Davis work for the Salvation Army in Kodiak. Dave says the need for food skyrocketed last month.
“Recently in the food bank, we’ve been doing 90-120 families,” he said.
That breaks down to 195 individuals and 101 children. Normally, the food bank only serves about 95 families. Their Christmas distribution alone served 61 families.
Major Lola Davis said that’s partly because the state has failed to send out food stamps the last few months.
“I know that from our clients who are coming in, that they have not been getting them,” she said. “I have two women who came in on Tuesday and both of them said they haven’t gotten them for six months.”
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was created to help low-income individuals and families have better access to food. About 11 percent of Alaskans rely on SNAP benefits, according to state data. Although many Alaskans have had problems accessing their benefits since October.
Davis said that while they provide for several families, individual recipients are another important group that can be difficult to serve.
“What’s really tricky is coming up with something that’s single or (for) somebody that’s homeless,” he said. “Having a little pocket can opener is huge! You give a homeless guy two cans of chili and no way to open it, the chili’s no good to him.”
People experiencing homelessness also often need foods that don’t require any cooking and are easily carried in a small backpack or a coat pocket.
While the increase in demand has been noted, Lola says they’re able to accommodate thanks to grocery rescue, a program that lets them get produce and other perishable items that are bruised, but still good to eat.
“We’ve been holding our own because of the grocery rescue,” she said. “We’re able to service and then when we do get low on the grocery rescue, we will see if people can wait and come back the next food bank day so that there would be more and most of them are willing to do that.”
For folks who also want to help outside of fundraisers, Davis suggests thinking of the food bank as they shop for themselves as they try to keep up with community needs.
“I don’t know if we can be picky,” he said. “Whatever they want to bring to us. They buy a package of noodles then buy an extra one, we get that extra one. That’s just kind of how, generally speaking, people that donate food kind of do it consistently.”
More information about how to donate to the Salvation Army in Kodiak can be found on their website.