After months of preparation, an expanded food bank will open next week at the Salvation Army, located at 1855 Mission Road, replacing the food bank at the Kodiak Baptist Mission, which closed its doors permanently last week.
According to Maj. Dave Davis and Maj. Lola Davis, the couple who stand at the helm of Kodiak’s Salvation Army chapter, the transition came after they received approval from the Salvation Army regional headquarters in Anchorage and Western Territory headquarters in California, a process that took more than two months.
“Any time you increase a program by more than 30%, you have to get divisional and territorial approval,” Dave explained.
Originally, the Davises intended to partner with Feeding America, a national nonprofit, facilitating access to federally funded food programs. These include the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides monthly food assistance for low-income seniors.
However, they soon realized the toll would be too high. The original contract with Food Bank of Alaska was 40 pages long.
“If you take on the 40-page contract, it’s almost like you’re doing another job,” Lola said. The federal programs have strict accounting and paperwork demands, which, according to the Davises, would have necessitated an additional staff member, a burden they cannot afford.
Instead, they boiled down a partnership with Food Bank of Alaska to a four-page contract. This means the loss of federally funded programs. But the Davises believe they will receive enough food donations from their main partners — the Coast Guard base, Safeway, Walmart and Cost Savers — to sustain the new food bank, which they expect will serve more than 400 Kodiak residents every month.
“Our intent is to use community food donations to feed community people. All that other stuff is just complicating the simple task we’re trying to do,” Dave said.
Lola said the basic partnership with Food Bank of Alaska will contribute to their fundraising efforts.
‘SEPARATE AND FUNCTIONAL’
The new food bank will be located on the bottom floor of the Beachcomber Transitional Housing building, adjacent to the Salvation Army’s other facilities. Previously, the space served as a barber shop and an engraving shop, but it has been vacant in recent months.
“It was designed so that you could take that and make money to support the housing,” Lola said. “Somewhere along the line, all those things went away and we haven’t been able to rent it out, so we might as well use it ourselves.”
The Beachcomber Transitional Housing, operated by the Salvation Army, offers 10 beds for men and seven beds for women in separate sections of the facility, serving individuals affected by substance abuse, domestic violence, and unemployment.
“We’re trying to protect that program and make that work and have the food bank underneath,” Dave said. “It’s just another set of challenges — trying to keep things separate and functional.”
While the transition of the food bank from the Baptist Mission to the Salvation Army, there will be a one-week gap in food bank services. Local firms Lightfoot Construction and Coho Electric have donated their time and effort to set up the new space, which will include a food storage area and separate indoor lobby.
“With the contractors and their donations, we’re way ahead of where we thought we would be as far as doorways and coolers,” Dave said on Monday. “There’s always more to do. We might get members of the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association to come over and help us get organized.”
SeaShare, a nonprofit, donated a $5,000 freezer to ensure the new food bank will be able to store donated fish bycatch. Numerous local seafood processing plants partner with SeaShare to donate bycatch.
“We told them we didn’t have room to take fish in the freezers, and they donated a freezer,” Lola said.
AAA Moving and Storage moved the equipment from the Baptist Mission Food Bank, free of charge. All food bank equipment was donated from the Baptist Mission to the Salvation Army, including a box truck, numerous freezers and refrigerators, shelving and food items.
In addition, the Baptist Mission donated the time of Allen Reaves, who served as the manager of the Baptist Mission Food Bank until it closed. Reaves’ contract will conclude at the end of December. He will work with the Salvation Army until then. His salary was paid for in large part by a $50,000 grant that the Baptist Mission received from Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center last year. When his contract is up, the director of the Baptist Mission said he hopes Reaves will return to the Baptist Mission.
Once Reaves departs, the Davises said they will likely not be able to afford a full-time employee to run the food bank.
“Unless someone blesses us with another $50,000 to hire an employee, I don’t see that happening,” Dave said.
The Salvation Army thrift store has one full-time manager and two part-time clerks, the only paid employees of the Salvation Army in Kodiak. All other work is supported by community donations and volunteer hours. Lola said she has received more donations by mail since the Salvation Army announced it will be taking on the food bank. The average donation ranges from $20 to $100.
“Doing the food bank for the community is a lot of work,” Dave said. “They say we’re an army, but we’re really an army of volunteers, and sometimes that army is pretty slim.”
WITH MORE FREEDOM, A BETTER FOOD BANK
For the Davises, the new food bank represents a return to the Salvation Army’s original mission. The Salvation Army hosted the first food bank on Kodiak Island, which opened in 1992.
In 2001, they gave up the commodity program and transferred it to the Baptist Mission, maintaining a limited food bank that has operated on a smaller scale, providing supplemental support in addition to the Baptist Mission’s main food bank.
“The commodity program was getting more and more complicated and all we wanted to do was gather food and distribute it,” Dave said.
“Which is why we didn’t want to go with the 40-page contract,” Lola added.
The Baptist Mission’s commodity program ended last year due to the burdensome regulations of the program, according to Kodiak Baptist Mission Executive Director Johnny Walker.
“What we discovered is that the federal regulations on distributing the food required us to have more manpower than what we had available to us. The shipments came irregularly and had more recordkeeping and accounting than we thought was necessary. We didn’t have the personnel for that,” he explained.
Initially, the mission turned to Food Bank of Alaska and asked it to supply funding for an additional staff member who would be responsible for accounting, weighing and distributing according to the federal regulations. Food Bank of Alaska said it couldn’t afford that.
“Money is tight everywhere,” Walker said. “I know the borough didn’t have money for that, as much as they would have liked to. We decided to suspend our involvement.”
Walker said that once the partnership with Feeding America ended, “it actually improved the situation for us.” The time spent on federal paperwork and accounting could then be devoted to food pickups.
“With more freedom, we actually ran a better food bank,” Walker said.
“We ended up at a better place food-wise, than we were using the program,” he said. The Baptist Mission decided to duplicate the elderly boxes. Rather than following the federal guidelines, they were able to tailor their content to what Kodiak residents wanted to eat.
At that point, however, Food Bank of Alaska turned to the Salvation Army and asked them if they would be interested in becoming the administrators of the commodity program in Kodiak. Rather than considering the commodity program alone, the Davises saw the food bank as an entire package, and agreed, pending approval from their advisory board and core council, to take on the mantle of running Kodiak’s main food bank.
“I believe that they’ll do a better job with the food bank, because it’s closer to their core ministry,” Walker said.
The decision came following a discussion between the Walker and Dave Davis at a Kodiak Island Borough meeting on nonprofit funding in May. In the previous year, the Baptist Mission had applied for — and received — $27,000 in funding from the borough for the food bank. This year, they did not apply. The Salvation Army received an $8,000 grant from the borough.
Once the idea for the transition gained traction, Walker said it became clear to him that the food bank belonged more naturally at the Salvation Army. The Kodiak Baptist Mission, he explained, focuses on childcare, and having a considerable number of unvetted people coming through the facility presented “considerable challenges.”
Walker said that the mission does not stand to gain financially from the transition.
“When I first came here five years, the food bank was running a deficit of $20,000-$30,000 annually,” Walker said. “It had been running a deficit in prior years, with a projection of it getting larger every year.”
Walker said that Kelli Foreman, assistant director of the Baptist Mission, sought grants and funding from different partners. In the past two years, the food bank has been self-sustaining, thanks to grants from Providence, the Kodiak borough and the city.
The Baptist Mission continued to operate their food bank until last week. Now that it is closed, the building will be used as the new home of the outdoor kindergarten school and a dry place for preschoolers on bad weather days.
“We have so many kids, it will be a very welcome addition to us to have that space,” Walker said.
Prior to the transition, each food bank served a few hundred individuals each month, and the extent of overlap between the two is unclear, but the Salvation Army expects to increase the number of people they serve.
The Salvation Army will receive the Baptist Mission’s records to ensure that those eligible are able to continue to receive their monthly food box, which consists of a healthy mix of items.
Food items are often donated close to the end of their shelf lives, meaning that food cannot stay on the shelves for long. If the food bank has any items left over, they will donate it to the Women’s Resource Center and the Brother Francis Shelter.
“You can’t leave stuff on the shelves. Having the food bank at the beginning of the week and the end of the week is good. Because then you don’t have anything sitting too long,” Lola said. The new food bank will be open every week on Tuesday and Friday from, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The Salvation Army Food Bank hopes to open its doors on Friday, but the official opening day is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 22.
“We’re going to do the best we can to make sure everybody gets served,” Dave said. “We just ask people to be patient.”