by the Food Bank of Alaska
When Edna and Jose Estrella moved to Selawik in the Northwest Arctic part of Alaska with their church, they were shocked by the prices in the grocery stores. They wanted to make a practical difference for their neighbors who can’t afford the groceries they need each month.
Volunteers Martin Alexie and Nita Stevens see the same thing in Mt. Village in the Lower Yukon region where they live.
When SNAP benefits for people in rural Alaska run out early because of the extremely high cost of groceries, their cupboards are truly bare. In these two villages, the only food assistance available is the local food pantry, supported by Food Bank of Alaska.
“It saved our family,” said one Mt. Village resident.
That’s why our top strategic goal is to distribute more food to communities across all regions of Alaska. With your help, we’re focusing first on these two regions of the state.
The Estrellas started out buying food themselves to hand out, but that was not sustainable. Working with us last year, they opened the 7th Day Food Pantry in the Adventist church in Selawik. When the plane comes with food, they get the word out by VHF radio and sometimes hop on a Sno-Go to make sure everyone knows the pantry is open. They serve about 40 households each time, adding up to hundreds of people.
There is no doubt in either Mt. Village or Selawik – this food fills a huge hunger gap in the villages.
“Please don’t stop!” says Edna. “You are the engine behind this.”
The Mt. Village Food Bank, managed by the Asa’carsarmiut Tribal Council, is run by a number of volunteers who sometimes stay from 9 am to 6 pm, so everyone who needs it gets help. When they hear on Facebook or VHF that food is ready to distribute, people line up at the tribal office.
Nita and Martin say the people are always super happy for the food even if they have to wait in line – they stop them all the time to say thank you.
“Your kindness and generosity will come back ten-fold,” say Martin and Nita, speaking to Alaskans who believe as you do that no one should go hungry. “We are so thankful!”
Food for both villages comes through the US Department of Agriculture’s commodity program, TEFAP, The Emergency Food Assistance Program. Last year we partnered with 37 rural organizations to distribute TEFAP in their communities.