By Jasz Garrett
Update: 19,175 pounds of food were raised through the 27th annual ‘Caring is Sharing’ 2023 event.
Juneau, Alaska (KINY) – Juneau Radio Center’s 27th annual ‘Caring is Sharing’ event was held Saturday at Foodland IGA and Super Bear IGA to benefit the Southeast Alaska Food Bank. First Student filled school buses with crates of donated non-perishable food items.
President of the Southeast Alaska Food Bank Jeremiah Beedle said the food drive comes at a time of high demand.
“We saw a 20% increase last year of how much food had gone out. It was a 24% increase in demand and a 20% decrease in donations,” he said. “So, last year we had about a 44% discrepancy. However, we started purchasing food in bulk where we could and where we needed to as well.”
Executive Director of the Southeast Alaska Food Bank Chris Schapp said there are multiple factors that impact more people needing food this year.
“It shows with our numbers that more people are hurting. Obviously, the economy has an effect on that. We’ve lived through COVID, obviously, and trying to come back from that, then prices increasing,” he said. “The SNAP crisis with people trying to get the food stamps and the backlog with that. So, there have been a number of issues, obviously, that have contributed to the high need for food in our community.”
Last year between the foodbank’s agency members and public pantries, 581,000 pounds of food was distributed.
“This year, we’re on pace to exceed that number,” Schapp said.
Beedle added the rising need is not unique to Southeast Alaska. It’s a national issue they want to get ahead of.
There are new needs pressed onto the foodbank by their 33 member organizations. A new warehouse could help them meet the needs of Southeast.
“This year our big push is we want to do a lot more in Southeast Alaska. So, we have a warehouse that will be built this year. We’re breaking ground as soon as it thaws out in the spring,” Beedle said. “We’re going to have our warehouse that will allow us to bring in three new federal programs that will be funded by the government, allowing us to distribute a whole bunch more food all throughout Southeast Alaska without having to increase the demands of donations upon the local folks that have been so good to us already.”
The warehouse will allow them a greater capacity to store food, allowing them to be better prepared.
“The goal is to have six months of food on hand to meet the needs of folks that are less fortunate. And the big piece is the folks that don’t know what to do when they find themselves food insecure, there’s pantries all over town,” he said.
On the Southeast Alaska Food Bank’s website, more information is available for people in need of support. Every Thursday the foodbank holds a pantry from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at 10020 Crazy Horse Drive.
People can also make donations via credit card on the website, send a check to the listed address, or drop off food at the food bank itself. They have a drop box outside the front door.
Beedle’s daughter, Sophia, helped out Saturday too. She was in a Foodland IGA ‘jail’, but said she was actually happy for the chance to sit down and snack on her caramel apple. A $20 donation could free the ‘inmates’ participating Saturday.
Attorney-at-law Ben Brown was, ironically, included in the mock Foodland Jail Saturday. He also is a lifelong Alaskan and Development Director and a company member at Perseverance Theatre. He was happy to see the event return for its 27th year.
“It’s a really, really great thing. It’s one of the most direct ways we can help our fellow residents in Juneau,” Brown said. “To make sure that people are not food insecure, year-round, but certainly at this time of year when people are trying to enjoy holidays.”
Executive Director of the Southeast Alaska Food Bank Chris Schapp thanked the community for their support. It was his fifth year participating in ‘Caring is Sharing’.
“It’s amazing. I mean, Juneau is such a thoughtful, generous town, community. Southeast in general is. So, anytime we do our food drive, there’s a huge outpouring of donations for us,” Schapp said. “Throughout the year, everybody, not just our food drives, but a lot of organizations do food drives for us, where we benefit from that and can help out the community in return.”