When Alaskans applied for Permanent Fund Dividends early in the year, many decided to donate a portion or even all of their payment to charity.
PFD charitable contributions are facilitated by Pick.Click.Give, a safe and secure way to donate. Many charities benefit from Pick.Click.Give, including the Food Bank of Alaska.
However, because the amount of the PFD isn’t known when donations are made, there is uncertainty for the organizations. (In 2015, the PFD Division paid out its largest dividend in history, $2,072 to 644,511 eligible Alaskans. The most recent 2016 PFD, at $1,022, was less than half that.)
Although the PFD was cut in half this year, pledges to the Food Bank did not fall by the same rate. Pick.Click.Give. donations totaled $89,550 in 2016 compared to $101,775 in 2015.
Karla Jutzi, Communications Director for Food Bank of Alaska, said her organization is lucky to have supporters who donate their entire PFD to the Food Bank.
“Back then, there was volatility, lots of uncertainty on what was happening and what the amount would be,” she said.
Although charities might wish the PFD amount were higher this year, the need for the services a food bank provides remains unchanged. With a need for good meals undiminished, the Food Bank is working hard to ensure that no Alaskan go hungry.
Jutzi estimated requests for help were up 15 percent, yet donations were down overall about 10 percent, compared to a year ago.
“We do know our 70 partners in Anchorage, Chugiak and Eagle River and our 20 partners in the Valley say the need has been going up,” she said.
Tuesday, Nov. 29, is GivingTuesday, and the Food Bank of Alaska is taking donations to fill plates for neighbors in need. You’ll be joining Anchorage businesses and tens of thousands of people nationwide. Donate or set up a #GivingTuesday team here.
Donations of $17 can buy a turkey; $45 means a holiday meal for a family; and $250 can feed a family of four for a week
Next Up: Holiday GIFT
On Dec. 13-14, Food Bank of Alaska will host its Holiday GIFT event, when those in need can receive a festive meal and a toy for children up to age 14. Pick-up locations are zip-code-based, and customers need to supply proof of address and document to verify ages for children.
When asked if it’s better for an Alaskan to donate money or goods to a food pantry, Jutzi said both are welcome. “Best is what works best for (the donor),” she said.
In terms of what the ideal foods might be, Jutzi advised, “I think when people are considering donating, they should ask themselves: ‘What do you like? What is good, nutritious food that is shelf-stable? And to think of kids. What might be some quick and easy meals for kids?’ Peanut butter, or cans of stew with the pop-top. Things that are high in protein and that kids can manage.”
The most sought-after food drive items include: peanut butter; jams/jellies; breakfast cereals; mac and cheese; canned meats, fruit and soups; easy-open canned meals for kids; Top Ramen or noodle bowls; and coffee.
As the Holiday GIFT event approaches, other suggestions include aluminum roasting pans; canned corn, green beans and cranberry sauce; box mix stuffing; gravy mix, and condiments.
Jutzi said the Holiday GIFT kit also includes 5 pounds each of potatoes and apples, and a turkey.
Cash donations also help the Food Bank.
“We can get more food with the dollar than (individuals) can,” Jutzi explained. “We have wonderful support from the foods industry and deliveries from the Lower 48.”
Although the number is not yet exact for this year, Jutzi said that Food Bank of Alaska has currently served 5.7 million meals to Alaskan neighbors in 2016, and counting.
Food Bank gives thanks
In a recent interview with The Star, The Food Bank of Alaska’s Executive Director Jim Baldwin said the FBA “is fortunate to have a very generous community, with lots of volunteerism. We’re extremely grateful. We can’t help our neighbors in need without the support of the many agencies and partners with whom we work.
“Tremendous support is received from local grocery markets and wholesalers. We get to share in that abundance when they have a surplus,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin will be spending his first winter in Alaska, having spent the last 20-plus years as Executive Director of the Food Bank of Hawaii. He joined the FBA in July, and said there are similarities between Hawaii and Alaska.
“When food comes to us from the Lower 48, it gets trucked or railed to the West Coast, to Seattle, and is then put on ships,” he said. “The remoteness of both creates unique logistics for moving food around.”
A.E. Weisgerber began her reporting career in 1999 as an entertainment and features writer. She was a 2014 Reynolds Journalism Fellow at Kent State University. Her reporting has appeared in New Jersey Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, The Courier Press, and many more. Follow her @aeweisgerber.