Food bank takes part in donation challenge

Posted: Monday, March 26, 2001

One sentence says it all. No one deserves to be hungry.

For residents on the Kenai Peninsula, the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank is a place that helps out many in a time of need either with emergency food boxes or a steaming bowl of soup served daily.

But the organization that helps area families also is in need.

"This is totally funded by donations," said Pat Vincent, interim program director, as she walked through the nonprofit food bank warehouse recently.

But due to his generosity, a Rhode Island philanthropist is helping to make a difference for the fourth straight year. Alan Shawn Feinstein is offering the One Million-Dollar Feinstein Challenge to nonprofit, anti-hunger agencies throughout the United States.

He will divide the $1 million among all the agencies using his offer to help them raise funds through April 30. Each agency will get a portion of the funds raised and reported to him in response to this offer.

The primary purpose of the food bank is to provide food to more than 62 nonprofit organizations stretching from Homer to Seward. The food bank also distributes emergency food boxes to those in need and operates a soup kitchen, which is open five days a week.

Vincent has worked at the food bank since January and said the employees and the community work together to help those in need. Also, the people who come in are grateful for the help provided to them.

"It has been a real moving experience to be here," Vincent said.

Another service the agency provides is The Emergency Food Assistance Program with USDA commodities. TEFAP is a federal program based on income guidelines that is available every 30 days to those in need.

In 2000, the soup kitchen served 11,763 meals, up from 9,343 meals served in 1999. The food bank also distributed a total of 6,628 food boxes, up from 1,054 food boxes in 1999, not including the number of boxes distributed through the member agencies and their own programs.

In combining all programs provided by the food bank, a total of 508,717 pounds of food went to help the hungry last year.

According to warehouse manager Mel Dunn, the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank is a unique organization.

"The last I heard, we are the only food bank that has it all," he said.

Though the United Way agency is the organization's largest funder, Vincent said the food bank still depends on businesses and individuals on the peninsula. Many business and individuals donate on a regular basis. Others, including oil and service companies, donate annually. This year, Phillips Petroleum donated $10,000 to the organization.

"The rest of our funding comes from the community," Vincent said.

The challenge will make monetary donations made through April 30 go farther, she said. The more donations received during this time, the more the food bank will receive from the Feinstein Found-ation.

Feinstein's past challenges already have brought $100 million for U.S. anti-hunger agencies nationally.

The challenge money raised will be distributed in June and go toward operating costs of the food bank.

Donors can specify what programs they want their money to help. Last year the food bank raised $10,932 for the challenge and received a check for $354.21 from the foundation.

Vincent said the challenge can make a difference in the community.

"It lets us bring attention to the food bank and our financial need," she said.

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