A canned and non-perishable food drive scheduled for this week will involve the very people who need the food the most during the summer -- kids.
The Student Nutrition Services Department of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, in association with the Alaska School Food Service Association and the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, are conducting a spring canned food drive Monday and Tuesday in road system schools with lunch programs throughout the school district.
Students attending these schools will bring in canned and non-perishable items from home and donate them to the food drive in their cafeterias during lunch time.
One reason for this drive is to help replace the breakfast and lunch programs some children rely on for nutrition during the school year.
"(The food drive) is specifically geared toward getting food into the food bank for the summer months so those students who don't have access to summer meals and what not will have a good supply of food," said Michael Lengenfelder, Student Nutrition Services administrator for the school district.
Donations to food banks typically drop off during the summer, Lengenfelder said.
"All food banks nationwide feel the same thing, and that's when we have a lot of students that aren't in school and have no summer feeding program," he said. "I think (the food drive) is a great project and would benefit those needy children on the peninsula who do not have access to summer meals."
Food drive organizers hope to collect several thousand pounds of food during the drive. The food will be collected and distributed to those in need by charitable organizations in Soldotna, Kenai, Homer, Nikiski, Seward, Moose Pass, Ninilchik and Anchor Point.
The main focus of the drive is on providing kid-friendly food for families with children this summer, Lengenfelder said. But since the majority of the food donated will be given to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, it will also provide nutritional assistance to low income families, seniors, disabled people, abuse survivors, the homeless and people living with life-changing illnesses.
In the central peninsula, the food will be given to the food bank. The food bank serves the public by supplying food to area charitable agencies, like the Boys and Girls Club and the Women's Resource and Crisis Center, that in turn provide meals and food donations for individuals in need. The food bank provides food to individuals in its soup kitchen, which operates five days a week, and through emergency food boxes.
According to Peggy Moore, director of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, the need for food for children goes up in the summer.
"So many people think cannery people come in and do major a hit (on the food bank during the summer), but that's not what we see," she said.
"We see a lot of single parents bringing their kids in, especially to the soup kitchen. We have a lot more children in here during the summer and less adults."
Donations gathered in canned food drives are invaluable in providing well-rounded, nutritious meals and food donations to individuals and families, Moore said. The food bank gets a lot of its supply from the Food Bank of Alaska in Anchorage, but it only gets certain staple items, like pallets of green beans, flour, industrial-size cans of stewed tomatoes, etc., which may not do an individual much good.
Canned food drives stock the food bank with a variety of items the bank doesn't normally have available to distribute through its agencies.
"The more variety we have in, the more agencies are apt to come in and shop, and that means the more variety that they'll be able to provide to individuals," Moore said.
"The agencies are our front line of defense against hunger."
Items recommended for the food drive include canned milk, dried fruit, canned vegetables, canned soup, boxed items like macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, granola bars, trail mix, cereal and canned meats and fish.
Moore is optimistic about the amount of food the drive will raise.
"The public certainly has been supportive of the food bank, and I have no doubt the public will get behind this, too, if they're aware of it," she said.
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