Community celebrates opening of new Food Bank expansion...

A host of local and state dignitaries turned out to tour and participate in the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly remodeled and expanded Kenai Peninsula Food Bank on K-Beach Rd. Under warm sunny skies Kenai High School grad and now Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration Becky Hultberg represented Gov. Sean Parnell at the event and expressed the Governor's congratulations to all who were involved in the community project. It all started a couple of years ago when the Food Bank received a matching grant challenge from the Rasmuson Foundation for the Building to Nourish campaign to remodel and expand the facility. "I've been a Food Bank supporter for quite awhile and director Linda Swarner and I actually went to Jr. High School together and we were having lunch one day and it was apparent that she needed some help so I agreed to head up the capital campaign committee charged with raising the $395,000 dollars to match the Rasmuson grant," Julie Derry told the Dispatch in an interview.

The eight person committee met weekly for two years to accomplish their goal, "We were motivated when we got our first large contribution and felt we were doing it, but it was all the small donors that gave us traction as we saw our efforts grow and grow a dollar, ten dollars at a time. It was just heart warming and the dollar donations meant as much as the larger ones because we knew that the person was giving all they were able to give and that the project meant a lot to them as well and was really exciting," said Derry.

As people toured the new facility they were amazed at the added freezer capacity, "We will be able to accept frozen foods that we were never able to handle before. The freezer is more energy efficient than the old one, so that will make for savings and we can actually drive a fork lift inside it to handle the frozen commodities," explained Derry. Lisa Parker, who emceed the ribbon cutting, said that when it was all added up it would close to $1.2 million dollars that was actually raised with the matching grant from the Rasmuson Foundation. "If we had been told we had to raise that much in the beginning we would have been scared silly, but together with everyone doing what they were able we made it to this day," added Derry.

Executive Director Linda Swarner invited the community to stop by anytime for a tour of the expansion and then cut the food pyramid cake, donated by the Cake Lady for the celebration. At the top of the pyramid of course was chocolate. "The major improvements are far reaching and will allow us to serve our clients in a more meaningful way and accommodate more clients and volunteers, because no one deserves to be hungry. A heartfelt thank you to all who donated to our Building to Nourish campaign," said Swarner.  For those wishing to continue to support the Food Bank tickets are now available for the annual Soup Supper and Auction to be held at Kenai Central High School August 27th. For tickets or more information call 262-3111, contact any Food Bank Board member, stop by the Food Bank on K-Beach Rd., or log on to