TREE LIGHTING – Sitkans gather next to a decorated spruce tree across from City Hall Saturday. Scores turned out for the Chamber of Commerce’s holiday celebration that included caroling, a tree lighting hosted by Mrs. Santa Claus, and remarks by Chamber of Commerce member Loren Olsen and City Administrator John Leach encouraging people to shop in town during the holiday season. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

AC Lakeside, Groups Head Free Food Project

By GARLAND KENNEDY
Sentinel Staff Writer

As part of a nationwide effort to alleviate food insecurity, a number of Southeast Alaska non-profits and AC Lakeside are taking part in a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to distribute food to those in need across Southeast Alaska.

Lakeside branch manager Vince Winter told the Sentinel that Alaska Commercial Company stores across the state package over 100,000 pounds of food for distribution every week since the start of the month. About a quarter of that amount is packaged here for distribution in Sitka, and to be flown out to Kake, Skagway, Haines, Angoon and Hoonah. The USDA program will run through the end of the summer, though Winter said it may be extended to the end of the year.

“It feels good to be able to be an active part in getting food to those in need here in Sitka, being a part of the Sitka community. There is no better feeling in the world,” Winter said.

He added that in Sitka alone there are eight different distribution centers for the food, which is free to anyone in need.

AC Lakeside Produce Manager Michael Fernandez packs a box with fresh produce inside the  store’s walk-in refrigerator Tuesday. Workers at the grocery store have been sending palletloads of food to Southeast villages and local charities through a USDA-sponsored program. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

The distribution centers are run by the Salvation Army, Sitka Tribe of Alaska, SAFV Shelter, the American Legion, Sitka Counseling, Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood, Sitka Mutual Aid, and the Elks Lodge. Those interested in receiving the aid should reach out to the organization of their choice from that list.

Food distribution in the outlying towns and villages goes through the Salvation Army in those communities, except in Skagway where the Skagway Traditional Council is in charge.

Winter said the wide range of options for food pickup in Sitka gives residents a personal choice.

“Wherever an individual feels more comfortable going to, there are more outlets,” he said.

Sitka Elks Lodge officer Melissa Greenhalgh said providing aid to the community holds a great deal of personal significance.

“It’s a big deal as an Elk and just personally to be able to help people right now. It’s been a rough year,” Greenhalgh said. “We’re getting 70 boxes a week, and so we’re reaching out to really everyone in the community who may be in need.”

The Elks have made provisions for food pickup and delivery.

Sitka Salvation Army Major Sabrina Tumey said she and others are grateful for the food assistance.

“The produce and the fruits are beautiful. And I literally have had people being so thankful and so grateful, almost to the verge of tears,” Tumey said.

The boxes, all packaged in the back room at AC Lakeside, contain a variety of food, from milk and cheese to fruit and vegetables.

The USDA buys the food from farmers with surplus production, and the program is funded by a $3 billion budget.

“The USDA has partnered with the farmers because of the issues that COVID has started with them, and this is a direct correlation from that. They are purchasing products that would normally not go out, because it wouldn’t be (economically) beneficial to sell,” Winter said.

 Lakeside has contracted with Alaska Seaplanes to deliver the food to the villages once a week, Winter said.

On Monday, 75 boxes were sent to Kake, and on Tuesday 100 boxes were dropped off for Haines and 25 for Skagway, Winter said.

Lakeside produce manager Michael Fernandez said “I come from a Lower 48 Native community (Lenni-Lenape), so seeing us give back and be a part of this, it’s an honor.”

Lakeside grocery manager David Goulette echoed the sentiment:

“It’s an honor,” Goulette said.

Tribal administrator for the Skagway Traditional Council Sara Kinjo-Hischer said the food comes at a critical time, a summer when the town’s vital tourism industry is shut down because of the pandemic.

“We’re hoping that this food program kind of helps people who are out of work and save up money for this coming winter,” Kinjo-Hischer told the Sentinel.

“Everybody who has picked up has been very appreciative and thankful,” she said. “I think we will have enough need – I hope this extends out into next winter, January, October through March.”

Kinjo-Hischer noted that Skagway, with a population of less than 1,000 at the northern tip of Lynn Canal, has experienced a great deal of hardship because of the ongoing pandemic.

“It feels like going through multiple winters without a summer coming,” she said. “It’s really a surreal feeling walking down Broadway (one of the town’s main streets) without seeing anyone, or tourists walking down the street.”

There are no eligibility requirement for receiving the food assistance, and those interested  are asked to contact the organization of their choice to arrange for food pickup or delivery.

“For the Salvation Army all they need to do is come to the Salvation Army and they will receive it,”  Tumey said. Pickup hours there are 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 to 3 p.m.

 

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Alaska COVID-19 
At a Glance

(updated 12-3-21)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 10:21 a.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 312

Total statewide – 146,558

Total (cumulative) deaths – 853

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 3,117

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The COVID alert rate for Sitka is “high,” based on 13 new resident COVID cases in the past 7 days, a rate of 152.52 per 100,000 population. Case statistics are as of Thursday.

New cases in Sitka – 2

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 1,142

Cumulative non-resident cases – 102

Unique positive cumulative test results in Sitka, as of 11/26/21 – 1,266

Deceased (cumulative) – 5

The local case data are from the City of Sitka website.

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20 YEARS AGO
December 2001

Photo caption: Cathy Hanson shovels snow off the sidewalk in front of Russell’s today. What started as a few flakes Monday evening had mounted to an estimated half-foot by noon today. More was forecast but rain is possible Wednesday.

50 YEARS AGO
December 1971 

Several fish fatalities resulted Monday night when a car apparently went out of control, ran off Halibut Point Road and slammed into the rear of Sitka Petland Store. Vibrations shattered fish tanks, and several hundred dollars worth of tropical fish were casualties.

 

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