The Southeast Alaska Food Bank has doubled its inventory in recent years and is lacking the freezer space to preserve it all. The nonprofit hopes to expand its facilities on city-owned land to build additional storage.
It’s 9:15 on a Saturday morning and the shelves at the Southeast Alaska Food Bank are pretty bare. When the facility opened 45 minutes ago there were rows of chicken, cheese, soup and sandwiches — now all that’s mostly left is sour cream and a few loaves of bread.
Volunteer Judy Brown helps a man fill a box with packages of Oreo cookies. She says there’s no limit on how much an individual can take from the food bank.
“I just want to be fair,” Brown says, “I don’t want to see anyone not get anything.”
She says today’s supply is lighter than usual, so she asks visitors to take things sparingly.
About 90 individuals visit the bank this morning and have walked out with roughly 2,700 pounds of food. The majority of it is locally donated from Walmart, Fred Meyer and Rainbow Foods.
Food bank manager Darren Adams says the amount of supply coming in-and-out has doubled in recent years.
“Once upon a time on a busy Saturday we would get 15 or 20 people showing up here to get food. When the economy started getting worse and worse, we started seeing more people and we had to move things around to accommodate that number of people,” Adams says.
The increased demand has led to plans for an expansion of the food bank by a quarter acre on a plot of city-owned land along Crazy Horse Drive.
Adams says the expansion would allow for the installation of walk-in freezers to store more meat — an item always first to go on a Saturday.
The added land would also permit the construction of a 1,840 square foot storage facility on the north side of the existing building.
Adams estimates the cost of the project to be minimal for the organization, but says the process is still very much in the “talking” phase.
Community planner Sarah Bronstein of Scheinberg Associates is helping the food bank navigate the complex process of getting the project off the ground.
“We will be just sort of looking over the shoulder of the city and making sure things are moving forward,” Bronstein says.
The Juneau Assembly needs to approve any changes to the food bank’s lease. Bronstein says it’s usually a three-month process, but does not foresee any hesitation from the Assembly.
“Part of the reason the city leases to the food bank is because it’s such a critical service that the food bank provides to the community,” Bronstein says.
The food bank also distributes nonperishable goods throughout the week to community partners such as The Glory Hole and the Boys and Girls Club of Juneau. Adams says roughly 25 percent of their supply is donated from individuals like the students of Floyd Dryden Middle School, who collected 1,140 pounds of food for the organization this past month.
“We live in a very generous community,” Adams says. “It never ceases to amaze me how willing people are wanting to step up and collect food for us.”
The city’s Planning Commission reviewed and approved the project at their Tuesday meeting. It now goes to the Assembly Lands and Resources Committee, which will decide whether to bring it before the full Juneau Assembly for approval.