Feinstein provides funding for food

Posted: Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Central Kenai Peninsula organizations trying to feed the hungry are getting a little extra help from a national program this spring.

The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank and the Kenai Senior Connection are both part of the Feinstein challenge. Money they raise in March and April will be leveraged to receive additional funds from the Feinstein Foundation's annual challenge. The challenge provides anti-hunger groups across the country with a portion of a $1 million pool, depending on how much each organization raises from its community.

"The Feinstein Foundation's whole goal is to help fund people who are hungry," said Rachel Craig, director of the Kenai Senior.

Last year, those Peninsula organizations received almost $1,000 combined after raising more than $204,000, according to the challenge's website.

Craig said she hopes that number will increase this year.

"I'm hoping we might be able to get a little more because we made a little more," she said.

At the senior center, money from the challenge will go to providing meals for seniors. The center delivers meals throughout their service area, which includes Kenai, some of Kalifornsky Beach Road, areas as far south as Kasilof and north to Miller Loop. Craig said the center provides meals to about 40,000 meals each year -- 20,000 of those to seniors in their homes.

"They are provided five days a week," Craig said.

About half of the clients get extra frozen meals on Friday to feed them through the weekend, she said.

The food bank's portion of the challenge pie goes towards a variety of programs. Executive Director Linda Swarner said the food bank has received about $4,000 since it started participating in 2000. The Feinstein money is undesignated, so it can be used wherever the food bank needs it, she said. And donations to a variety of programs, including the Fireweed Diner, building costs and undesignated funds, count toward the food bank's portion of the million dollars.

Both organizations have coordinated fundraising efforts to help with leveraging the Feinstein funds. Swarner said that food drives coordinated by the Boy Scouts and local salons have helped her organization because every pound of food that comes in counts as a dollar donation. The senior connection held their March for Meals fundraising dinner on March 31, and solicited donations while selling tickets for that, Craig said.

Both organizations are still accepting donations.

"If you've been considering donation to the food bank you have one more month to so do so that we can use it toward Mr. Feinstein's challenge," Swarner said earlier this month.

According to the Rhode Island-based foundation's website, it is funded mainly by philanthropist Alan Feinstein. Hunger-focused agencies around the country can participate in the challenge once they provide proof of their status as a federal tax-exempt organization and a brief report of their March and April fundraising efforts. Last year, six Alaska organizations participated, including the Homer Community Food Pantry.

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@peninsulaclarion.com.

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