More Peninsula Residents Lack Basic Needs, Report Says

Marcia Lynn


     New data in a report issued by the United Way of Anchorage is helping the agency raise money to help people in need.  Alaska 211 is a statewide phone referral system by the United Way Alaska five years ago.  
     Sue Borgen, Vice President of Community Engagement for the agency, says it helps people meet their basic needs like food, clothing, transportation and housing. 
     Borgen says data from Alaska 211 calls is the basis of a new report that shows residents of the Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak and other Gulf coast communities are still struggling.  For the first six months of 2012 thirty percent of all referrals to residents from those areas were for basic needs like food, housing and clothing.
     The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, now in its 25th year, continues to see a rising demand says Executive Director Linda Swarner.  She’s been with the Food Bank for nearly a decade and says the biggest jump came in 2008 when demand rose thirty percent and never dropped down.
     That story is being repeated in communities around state says Borgen, and Alaska 211 is using data for fundraising.  They recently received a million dollar safety net grant from the Rasmuson Foundation.  The first round of grants was given out last Friday. The Homer Food Pantry and the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank were among the recipients.  Borgen says their data also helps raise community awareness of the needs issue:
     The second round of Rasmuson grant money goes out in early spring with an expanded outreach to agencies statewide says Borgen.  More information about the Alaska 211system is on the website  People needing help or referrals can simply call 211.