Food pantry keeps up with rising demand

USDA adds fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy to 101-bag giveaway

One hundred and one bags of food were distributed at an Aug. 17 event. (Aug. 17, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Cordova’s Salvation Army food pantry distributed 101 of its 102 bags of food at a Monday, Aug. 17 event. Staples such as fish, beans and cereal were supplemented with milk, potatoes, oranges and other fresh produce supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Salvation Army’s food distributions are open to any household needing to supplement its food budget, including those who may only need to visit a food bank on a one-off basis, said Jenni Ragland, service extension director for the Alaska Division of the Salvation Army.

“If someone shows up and they’re in need of food assistance, we’re going to take care of them,” Ragland said. “Oftentimes, families may have temporary challenges due to loss or lack of employment. Then there are families who struggle, and rely on a food pantry to supplement their monthly food budget.”

Demand at the Cordova food pantry has almost doubled since February, due in part to the coronavirus pandemic. At an April 18 event, the food pantry exhausted its supply after distributing 60 boxes. However, abundant food and cash donations from the community have strengthened the food pantry’s ability to respond to increased need. A new partnership with the Food Bank of Alaska has also expanded the capacity of the Salvation Army’s food bank program, Ragland said.

“It’s a bit like the story of the loaves and fishes in the Bible,” Ragland said. “There’s a need, and we look at what we have, and we just trust and pray that it’s going to be adequate to meet that need.”

Ragland, who last visited Cordova for Thanksgiving 2019, said she was impressed by the outgoing and community-minded attitude displayed in Cordova. A trip scheduled for March was canceled due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.

No major changes to the food bank program are planned, though the Salvation Army is prepared to adapt to changing needs as they emerge, Ragland said. The Cordova food pantry’s next food distribution event is scheduled for Sept. 21.