Point of View: That none may go hungry

The Homer Community Food Pantry thanks sources of donated resources they offer to Homer residents

As we say hello to 2024, The Homer Community Food Pantry would like to thank the numerous people and organizations that have supported the pantry.

Every year when fall rolls in, HCFP launches into a massive fundraising mode. Kicking it off in late August, Alice’s Champagne Palace and Metis Riley hosted their third Thankful Market! It was an arts and craft fair where the entrance fee was food for the holidays! This year, along with many food donations, they also gifted the pantry over $700. Now WE are the thankful ones!

In early November, we hosted the annual Empty Bowl Fundraiser! This has become an annual event that everyone looks forward to!

Spearheaded by Sherry Stead and Traci Asselin, along with numerous volunteers. Local potters donating their bowls were: Annette Bellamy, Paul Dungan, Ruby Haigh, Marie Herdegren, Anna Iredale, David Kaufman, Maygen Lotscher, Cynthia Morelli, Jeff Szarzi, Bruce Robinson, Homer Council on the Arts and the Homer High School potters.

Local restaurants that we’d like to thank for their homemade soups, breads and desserts were: AJ’s Steakhouse, Alibi Bar and Cafe, The Bagel Shop, City Bear Breads, Captain’s Coffee, Fat Olives, Flex High School Culinary Class, Kristin Dixon, The Kannery Grill, Maria’s Zumba Class, The Otter Room, Set Free Alaska, Twisted Goat, Two Sisters Bakery and Wild Honey Bistro.

Folks were also serenaded by Homer’s own, HUGS ukulele group! People commented that folks seemed to be so happy to be there and gather as a caring community to support this wonderful cause. The pantry netted $10,000 from this event. It was truly a Soup-er Bowl Success!

The Great Pumpkin Pantry, our annual canned food drive in the schools, began in mid-November and ran through the end of December!

Fireweed Academy, West Homer Elementary and Homer Middle School took on the quest! Little Fireweed has made it their tradition to deliver their wagons of food, decorated with trees! They were thrilled to have a tour of the HCFP facilities and amazed at the amount of food that is housed there and given out each week.

McNeil Canyon has made it their tradition to make bags of soup, with all the fixings and completing each one with a personal holiday message along with collecting food.

Kachemak Bay Campus also has an annual Christmas Canned food drive. What a beautiful gesture that involves all ages and caries the message of caring for each other and giving to those in need! We are beyond grateful.

Other businesses collecting nonperishable food items were: The Gear Shed, Kraken, Down East Saloon, Alibi, Nomar and the Homer Library. Herb’s Herbs has made it an annual event delivering several boxes to the pantry.

South Peninsula Hospital and the Homer Medical Center show up for us in so many ways. This year they donated four large boxes. Their care goes well beyond the hospital!

A big thank you to Kharacters, Down East Saloon, The Salty Dawg, The Otter Room and AJ’s Steakhouse for promoting and filling up our Grinch collection jars!

We’d like to thank our partners at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank who made it possible to get all our holiday turkeys at $.50 per pound! Folks are always thrilled when they get these, and to Coal Point for allowing us to store our turkeys in their freezers.

A shoutout to the Coast Guard for lending the manpower in unloading the numerous turkeys!

Salmon Sisters, Homer Fish Processors, and Coal Point for consistently providing us with several pounds of their fresh vacuum-sealed salmon and halibut throughout the year. The protein is so valued and our patrons love it!

Tracy Hansen, owner of 59 North, for her donation of $450 in support of the pantry. It’s so nice when people stop in and drop off a check in support of the work being done at the pantry! The American Legion recently donated $500. You are appreciated!

The American Heart Association donated $5,000 to be used toward food preservation! We plan on utilizing that in purchasing compostable containers for the Free Fridge Project along with fresh produce.

Two Sisters Bakery has provided their fabulous breads every Monday for the clients at the pantry going on three years now; you are amazing!

Bear City Breads and the Bagel Shop for their breads that are often found in the Free Fridge and at the pantry. Folks love your bread!

The Homer Foundation, who recently awarded HCFP $1,000 from their Peoples Choice Awards. Thank you Paul and Colleen James and Bill Bailey for choosing us!

Thank you to McNeil Canyon Meats for selling your beef chubs to us at cost and for the processing of moose meat that is given to the pantry!

Petro Marine and Susie Quinn has made it their mission of awarding the Homer Community Food Pantry a percentage of their gas sales. This year they donated over $18,000! Words cannot express how much we appreciate this and you!

Homer Elks Lodge #2506, through an ASEA HELP Grant, donated $8,000 to the Community Free Fridge project. Not only did they provide the funding, but they also used that in purchasing food and items toward the fridge, along with having their cooking team make wonderful meals each weekend for the Free Fridge. You have been such a blessing!

Through Safeway’s Gift Cards that individuals added on to their shopping donations, we received $7,800.

In donating through Pick, Click, Give Homer Community Food Pantry received $6,500. Thank you for thinking of us and for your generosity!

Ulmer’s has been very generous in gifting us their overstocked candies and other items from the holidays. What an extra sweet treat!

We’re also grateful to the many churches that continue to donate: All Saints of America Orthodox Church, Church on the Rocks, St Augustine, Glacier View Baptist, Homer United Methodist and Regent Life.

Sons of the American Legion has graciously continued their support. A hearty thanks to SPH for providing free flue shots to our clients!

And last, but not least, Homer Animal Friends donated over 1,300 pounds of pet food for our furry friends that offer us companionship, mental stability and so much love!

We are continually amazed by the anonymous donors! Whether it is a few dollars, a few hundred dollars, weekly gallons of whole milk for families or thousands of dollars, we simply could not do all that we do without you!

We need to give a huge shoutout to our tremendous 30-plus volunteers that show up every week to clean and sort the produce, breads and canned goods so that we are ready for distribution every Monday at noon. We also have folks that pick up food daily from numerous grocery stores and stock the Community Free Fridge.

It is a commitment of love and a ton of work that takes place throughout the week. On average HCFP serves over 594 families a month. This number continues to grow each week! Based on 2023 numbers this equates to 770 distinct households, or 2,032 individuals, including 74 veterans, 212 disabled adults, 354 seniors and 421 children. That’s approximately 15% or more of the residents within the greater Homer area, meaning that 1 in 8 people in our community are food insecure!

More people and families are signing up weekly. Last Monday we had 161 families come through our doors. We rely on grants, donations and surplus or expired grocery items to meet this need. HCFP spends over $15,000 every month! We hand out over 1,000 cans of food each week and purchase bananas, apples, oranges, wheat bread, onions, carrots, potatoes, milk, eggs, oatmeal and numerous other dry food items. Through a USDA program administered by the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, we provide low-income seniors with food boxes each month.

We also send boxes of food across the bay to the communities of Port Graham, Nanwalek and Seldovia. We provide for people from across the bay and as far up the road as Ninilchik. We donate food items to over 100 food insecure students at Homer High School and also a few fresh food boxes to Flex. We also stock a Community Free Fridge with meals, soups, sandwiches, salads and desserts that is open 24/7, providing an estimated 350 meals weekly along with another 100-plus deli delights from Safeway, to those in need.

Folks have mentioned that when it comes to feeding their family or paying rent, the Community Free Fridge has been their “go-to.” Some have said, it is what literally kept them going!

Homer Community Food Pantry, through an ongoing grant administered by the Homer Foundation, has provided emergency services, including gas, shower vouchers, firewood and help with rent assistance, heating, oil, phone bills, prescription meds and more.

Thanks to the dedication of Jaclyn Rainwater and All Things Recovery, we are able to provide information and resources to those with substance abuse issues.

The Homer Community Food Pantry is incredibly thankful for the City of Homer’s continued support. Through the City’s Grant Program, administered by the Homer Foundation, we are able to continue ongoing operations of food purchases. Without their generosity, along with other organizations and individuals we would not be able to serve approximately 1,500 adults and 400 children who walk through our doors annually and that number continues to grow!

We can always use fish, moose or any other meat donations. With the less than abundant year of fishing last year and a change in moose regulations, our meat availability has diminished substantially. Our freezers are nearly empty. We are like a family, in that we share a common goal: “we’re here to provide for the needy and the hungry.” Folks enjoy coming to the pantry as it’s a very happy and welcoming place.

If you’d like to donate to the Homer Community Food Pantry or be put on our monthly newsletter you can go online at homerfoodpantry@gmail.com or reach us at 907-235-1968.

You can also scan the Venmo code for donations. We encourage people to please consider the Homer Community Food Pantry by becoming Legacy Donors. You can do this by going to the website through the Homer Foundation and filling out the paper work there.

We are located at 770 East End Road in the United Methodist Church and open every Monday for distribution, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and open for drop-offs Mondays 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or Thursdays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., or give us a call!

Together, we can work as a community in accomplishing our goal … That None May Go Hungry!

Deb Schmidt is a board member of the Homer Community Food Pantry.