Alaska club moves to fight hunger
Members of the Rotary Club of Anchorage East distribute food from the mobile pantry. Photo by Gregory Solomon
Every second Saturday of the month, members of the Rotary Club of Anchorage East, Alaska, USA, distribute food to families in low-income neighborhoods through a mobile food pantry, addressing the area's increasing need for assistance.
In 2006, the club raised $50,000 to purchase and refurbish an old beer truck for the Food Bank of Alaska. Rotarians have since maintained a strong connection to the project by volunteering once a month to distribute food and funding the maintenance of the vehicle.
The truck made a "magical" transformation from hops to hope, says David Kester, who chairs the effort.
"This project fills a basic but important need in the community," he says. "By helping put food on the table, we are hitting people where it counts. We're making a lasting impact one family at a time."
Demand at the mobile food pantry has increased by about 30 percent in the last 18 months, says Susannah Morgan, an Anchorage East club member and executive director for the Food Bank of Alaska, which distributes food six times a week to hundreds of families in Anchorage. The recession has increased the number of people seeking help.
"We're seeing more and more working residents utilizing our pantry," says Morgan. "I'm consistently amazed at how many people are hungry. This pantry puts a face on hunger."
Stocked with a variety of canned goods as well as fresh and frozen produce, the truck delivers enough groceries to last a family a week. The food is donated by farmers, local grocery stores, and other agencies. People can choose the items they want and take home as much as they can carry, says Kester.
Club member and Rotary Foundation Trustee Carolyn E. Jones says volunteering once a month at the pantry gives Rotarians the opportunity to build relationships in the community.
"We know a lot of the people on a first-name basis," she says. "It's a great hands-on project that is fun and exhilarating. When the money runs out, we're there to put food on the table. You can see the appreciation on their faces."
Kester estimates that more than 2 million pounds of food has been distributed since the mobile pantry first started its engine. He says the free groceries help in ways that extend beyond finances.
"We give families one less thing to worry about, which in turn can improve home life," says Kester. "This project serves communities in immeasurable ways."
"I think Rotarians here are catching a glimpse of the difference we truly can make in people's lives," says Morgan. "The success of the mobile pantry gives me faith that Rotary can fight hunger worldwide."