If you’ve ever remodeled an existing home, you can appreciate this problem. Sometimes things just get complicated.
The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank in Alaska needed to grow. The original 9,000 square foot building, constructed in 1997, no longer met the needs of the area, so an expansion was undertaken. That’s when the problems surfaced. A corner of the warehouse which houses USDA commodity food products had sunk, due to an old bury pit that had not been documented. That issue, plus the need for new food cooling equipment, heating system upgrades, and handicap-accessible washrooms, a waiting room, an arctic entry and more warehouse space caused the food bank to turn to USDA Rural Development for a Community Facilities Direct Loan.
USDA has long been a partner with the food bank, which now serves over 700 households a month. Working with the Alaska Rural Development staff, food bank officials were able to obtain a loan of a manageable size that addressed the concerns listed above and also allowed expansion of the in-building Fireweed Diner, (formerly the Soup Kitchen) that provides about 21,000 meals a year to eligible local residents. The diner’s ventilation system, range and cabinets are all being upgraded.
When completed the food bank will be better able to serve residents living in Kenai, Soldotna, Homer, Sterling, Moose Pass, Cooper Landing, Ninilchik and Tyonek. As an added bonus, expansion of the diner makes it possible for the food bank to provide meeting space to service groups. While the building will be bigger, conservation measures will cut energy consumption.
The food bank is truly indispensable. It is the only one in the area, serves 67 agencies, and in 2009 provided 1,116,000 pounds of donated and reclaimed food products to clients and eligible diners. At USDA, we were pleased to help these dedicated Alaskans in their effort to truly serve those here on the peninsula who are in need of a good, healthy meal.