If you have any questions and comments please send an email to our Food Bank directorAlex von Tsurikov.
Kodiak Island Food Bank
"That all would be fed . . . that none would
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Research by Feeding America indicates that we would need to develop and distribute 395,737 pounds of food to address the food insecurity needs of the Kodiak Island Borough. Presently the Kodiak Island Food Bank is distributing very close to 250,000 pounds of food (246,298 lbs. in 2012). This level of service places the Food Bank approximately two thirds of the way to fully addressing food insecurity for Kodiak Island.
This is of course a very simplified analysis of an incredibly complicated issue and to assume that just churning out pounds will precipitate a solution would be naive. That said, the fact that this issue
is being addressed to this level does offer us a significant and positive macro indicator that while these needs are significant, food insecurity around the Kodiak archipelago is a surprisingly addressable issue.
This fact is even further encouraged by the consideration that the total food resource needed to meet this goal fully exists and actually far exceeds the needs of the island; it simply needs to be diverted out of the waste stream and away from our land fill and to the food banking. Presently wasted food resources are only being tapped minutely in Kodiak. With the exception of Cost Savers which is diverting 100% of its usable discards, the remainder of our grocers in Kodiak including the Coast Guard base, divert only a fraction of their usable discards to the food banking stream. It would be very interesting to see an analysis of how much food waste is being funneled around the food bank directly into our landfill. After having a community food bank, the next most important step in the strategy to address food insecurity is to develop this nearly untapped resource. To do this we have to understand the bias for disposal and barriers to donating.
Barriers to Donation
It is easier to just throw it away!
It just is! As stores deal with sorting out products that they can no longer sell, it is more efficient to just throw that product away than to set it aside, work around it and keeping track of it until it passes from the stores custody to the Food Bank’s. Response: Food banking has to make it as convenient and advantageous as possible to donate. Pickups need to be frequent and timely so grocers aren’t tripping over donated products or left wondering if anyone will show or not.
Competing with Yourself
If you give it away people won’t buy it. It seems very simple if you’re giving people food out of the back of your store, then it’s that much less business you’re going to have through the front of your store.
Response: While logical, it just isn’t that simple when dealing with food insecurity, especially in Kodiak. A vast majority of people accessing the food bank are employed but experience under-employment. They all still shop right along with everyone else but what they buy is often very different and highly driven by available funds. Interestingly the cheapest foods in our stores are also the most calorically compact and least nutritious. With a buying strategy that focuses on these foods you can quickly meet (exceed actually) your caloric needs but still be far short of your nutrient requirements. We don’t hear it much anymore but my Grandma used to talk about empty calories, those foods that are full of calories but no nutrients. She usually meant candy but that describes a lot of our foods today. Empty calories really do make us fat while at the same time leave us short of the nutrients that make us healthy. Conversely, you will have a hard time meeting your caloric needs by eating leafy greens and vegetables but by the time you do, you will be highly saturated with a diverse abundance of the key nutrients to your good health but God help at the register ! Receiving support from the food bank allows people to shift the purchasing power they do have away from maximizing calories to expanding options including healthy choices for their families.
The Liability is just too great
This statement has become the trump card in conversations about donating food and ends many attempts to do so. There is usually one of two situations at work when liability is being cited as a reason for discarding instead of donating products. One, it may be just that, the vendor is concerned about what could happen once that product leaves their hands. Or, possibly more often, it sounds a lot better to be able to say “it’s out of my hands, can’t do it for legal reasons” when the barrier is another issue that, if voiced, might put the vendor in a less favorable light. Response: In situations where vendors are truly concerned that they are jeopardized by donating food, food banks have two important roles to play. One, demonstrate excellent food handling practices and policies to build the confidence that the food bank is just as concerned as the donor. And two, educate the vendor about laws that protect them from liability. Specifically the 1996 Federal Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.
. This law:
* Protects you from liability when you donate to a non-profit organization;
* Protects you from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient;
* Standardizes donor liability exposure. You or your legal counsel do not need to investigate liability laws in 50 states; and
* Sets a floor of "gross negligence" or intentional misconduct for persons who donate grocery products. According to the new law, gross negligence is defined as "voluntary and conscious conduct by a person with knowledge (at the time of conduct) that the conduct is likely to be harmful to the health or well-being of another person."
In most cases donors do not change their disposal practices after being informed of their legal protections. This is an indicator that liability is not really at the heart of the reluctance to donate. In these situations the community and food bank needs to focus on the real underlying issues and not dissipate itself on an educational campaign regarding liability protection.
Kodiak Island Food Bank began in 2000. At that time the food banking landscape was very different. The heart of the program was The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). This program utilizes food produced through Federal subsidies to farmers and distributes it to food banks. With the increased profitability of farming in the US, subsidies have nearly ended, diminishing this food supply. If food banking were the proverbial three legged stool then TEFAP made up two of the legs with salvaged food acting as the third. Today TEFAP still plays an important role in a community's food banking plan but a much dimished one. Now salvaged food is the predominant resource with TEFAP playing a supporting role.
This change has taken place concurrent with the economic downturn and a substantial increase of people utilizing food banks. The pressure to maintain food resources in light of this increased need has been intense. With the drop off of TEFAP, food banks have had to focus on food salvage to keep pace with needs. This brings significant challenges to food bank opperations as food salvage is labor intensive and the captured resource is highly perishable. Compared to handling consistent neat and uniform boxes of shelf stable food, salvage is tremendously challenging.
Happily the Kodiak Island Food Bank has maintained a consistent food supply throughout this change but it has not been without impact to operational expenditures. To keep pace with this level of service it has required moving from three day a week pickup schedule to doing pickups every day. It has also required a lot of extra time be devoted to sortation along with necessitating asignificant increase in refrigeration space to support distributions based on salvaged perishables. In accomplishing this, our staff and food bank truck are spending a great deal more time on the road and we finally had to add an additional part time staff to spread the load. In twelve years the Food Bank has met budget only one time, so even a moderate increase to costs is alarming. In addition to working harder to salvage available food, the Food Bank will also have to rise to the challenge of developing funding resources so that it can adequately meet the food insecurity needs in our community.