This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.
As residents buy up toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other household necessities in response to Alaska’s first positive COVID-19 case, the food bank is seeing dramatically low donations.
Greg Meyer, director of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, said donations this week have dropped dramatically. As stores are running low stock of certain items, they are unable to share as much with the local food bank.
“Stores are selling so much, but we’re not seeing very much or receiving much from the stores,” Meyer said. “A lot of the folks we have don’t have the ability to go and buy things up.”
The food bank’s box truck, which picks up and drops off food around the peninsula, broke down recently, Meyer said. It will cost $20,000 to fix. Meyer said about $7,500 has already been committed.
“We need the vehicles now more than ever,” Meyer said.
The governor issued a mandate Friday closing all schools to students until March 30. For students who rely on the school district for morning and afternoon meals, Meyer said he’s offered the food bank’s support.
“If they needed us in any way, we would be glad to help,” Meyer said.
The food bank offers meals in its dining room on Kalifornsky Beach Road near Soldotna. In response to the new coronavirus outbreak the country is facing, the food bank will change the way they offer their services.
Starting Monday, Meyer said visitors will be asked to enter through a side door, walk down a hallway past the bathroom, where they’ll be asked to wash their hands and sanitize before entering the dining room.
Meyer said staff are eliminating anything “common” like self-serve coffee pots and water cups. Staff will be serving visitors all food and beverages.
Staff are also wiping down all door knobs and surfaces on an hourly basis. Informational posters have also been placed on the building’s walls.
Meyer said the food bank is strategizing how to serve food in the next few weeks. He said many of the seniors who come into the dining room are asking for their food to go. He is working on gathering supplies to make meals more portable, giving people the ability to pick up meals and take them to go.
For residents who want to donate, Meyer said the food bank could use sandwich bags, paper bags, plastic containers and anything else to make a lunch more portable. Meyer said he and the food bank are “so grateful for this community.”
If community members see a need they think the food bank could address, Meyer said he wants to hear about it.