Each month, the Upper Susitna Food Pantry provides supplementary food for about 220 households in the Upper Valley. Board President Jenny Krepel says the food comes from a variety of sources, including donations and government programs.
“We have three types of food that we distribute: food that comes from the federal services that is free to us–I usually tell people that what we pay for it is paperwork; and then we get state food, which is usually aimed at a particular population, for us it goes to seniors in need; then we have non-regulated food, which is food that we either get by donation, food drives, or that we purchase ourselves. We use that food to supplement the other food, usually trying to get more variety, have protein sources, get bread, or things like that.”
The balance of how much food comes from each source has changed over the years. Jenny Krepel says that the food pantry initially did not have to buy much food at all, since the federal and state programs covered the community need. Recently, however, budget cuts for those programs mean that the food pantry has had to buy more and more of the food it provides. Now, the food pantry spends nearly 85% of its budget on food purchases. For example, the organization spends nearly $5000 per year on eggs, which is close to the food pantry’s entire operating budget in years past.
In addition to its regular monthly food boxes, the food pantry creates special baskets for families in need that are distributed before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Jenny Krepel says the effort required to put together the estimated 250 food baskets for Thanksgiving is monumental, and requires coordination of a number of individuals and organizations.
“You would be surprised how many volunteer hours go into it. It takes someone coordinating with the food bank to organize how much food we get. There’s been someone going to meetings since June with the food bank in Anchorage to coordinate this effort, and that’s just for Thanksgiving.”
In addition to volunteers working with the Anchorage food bank, the Sunshine Food Pantry works with its counterpart in Willow and more than a score of volunteers. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, the food pantry is having to make significant adjustments after the passing of one of its most dedicated volunteers.
“Unfortunately, our volunteer that probably did the most volunteer time, and was one of the main organizers, and was in charge of that event was Carroll Carroll, and she passed away in late October. We are scrambling, like I said, it might take eight of us to fill her shoes. We’re just trying to go back and re-create the organization that she had started for making this happen. One of the points that I want to get out to people is, if they volunteered to help, maybe call us and let us know that, because we don’t have her lovely notebook of lists of who is around.”
Jenny Krepel says that plans for this years holiday food distribution are proceeding, and that volunteers are putting in many hours to make sure this years events are successful, but that more help is always welcome. The food pantry’s “Thanksgiving Blessing” event will be held on November 23rd at the Upper Susitna Senior Center as well as the Lutheran Church in Trapper Creek.