Need for Juneau food banks is greater than ever

Southeast Alaska Food Bank in Juneau. November 15, 2022. (Photo by Claire Stremple/KTOO)

Ken Garrison looked through a shopping cart piled high with all kinds of bread — long baguettes, herbed loaves, sliced. He was at the start of a buffet of food-laden carts in front of the Southeast Alaska Food Bank warehouse, where he picks up food twice a week for some elderly friends who don’t have cars.

He selected one white and one whole wheat, then grabbed some celery and a bag of kale salad.

“I like that they get good produce here, from Costco and through other stores in town,” he said. “They get a pretty good variety.”

Garrison is part of a long but fast-moving line. The pandemic more than doubled the food bank’s patrons. And they say they need the service as much as ever — inflation means their food dollars don’t go as far as they used to.

Claudia Criss and a friend select some dairy products at Southeast Alaska Food Bank in Juneau. November 15, 2022. (Photo by Claire Stremple/KTOO)

“We’re all squeezed with fixed income,” said Claudia Criss, who is 71-years old.

She was looking for dairy, vegetables, bread and maybe some protein.

“I think it’s a needed service,” she said. “I really appreciate being able to get it.”

Criss used to go to the Helping Hands food pantry, but she switched over when she learned they were shutting down.

Chris Schapp, who has run the food bank for the last three years, says demand is higher than ever.

“We noticed with Helping Hands closing down, we were up about 35 to 40 people more than we’ve been averaging — almost 300 [people a week],” he said.

Chris Schapp moves food from the warehouse to the parking lot for a Tuesday food pantry. November 15, 2022. (Photo by Claire Stremple/KTOO)

When he started, the food bank would serve up to 90 people a week.

“Over the last two years with COVID, it’s been between 225 to 275 a week,” he said.

He says inflation is likely a factor now.

Southeast Alaska Food Bank is hosting its annual food drive this Saturday. Last year, Juneau donated more than 20,000 pounds of food. Schapp says he’s hoping for even more this year, to match the need.

“It’s busy,” Schapp said. “But we’ll take care of everybody we need to. Just make it happen.”

The annual Caring is Sharing Food Drive will take place on Saturday, November 19, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Foodland and Superbear IGA stores in Juneau.

Claire Stremple

Alaska News Reporter, KTOO

I believe every Alaskan has a right to timely information about their health and health systems, and their natural environment and its management. My goal is to report thoughtful stories that inform, inspire and quench the curiosity of listeners across the state.

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