Wasilla Bible Church

Participating sites from Palmer to Talkeetna such as Wasilla Bible Church handed out the free grocery items during the annual Valley Thanksgiving Blessing.

WASILLA — Food Bank of Alaska and their community partners distributed free groceries to make Thanksgiving meals to an estimated 12,000 Anchorage and Valley families in need during the annual Thanksgiving Blessing event.

The Valley Thanksgiving Blessing took place Saturday, Nov. 20 with several participating sites from Palmer to Talkeetna such as Wasilla Bible Church handing out the free grocery items throughout the day. The Anchorage event took place the following Monday.

Both events are made possible by community-wide collaborations between local churches and charitable organizations with dedicated volunteers doing everything from donating food to helping visitors load their bags into their vehicles.

Some sites offered a drive-thru experience with pre-boxed food, while others offered the traditional “shopping” experience that recipients usually participate in.

Families in need went to distribution sites according to their zip codes. According to a recent press release, a total of 11,159 families accessed the program in 2020, showing a 27 percent increase from the previous year. 2,373 of those families were in the Valley and 8,786 were in Anchorage.

“Thanksgiving Blessing is an amazing community-wide effort. During this time of heightened need, we are proud to partner with the faith community to ensure that our hungry neighbors can enjoy a holiday meal,” Food Bank of Alaska CEO, Jim Baldwin stated in the press release. “The coordinated project was instituted in 2004 to make it easier for people to find food assistance at the holidays and to more effectively meet the need by avoiding both gaps in service and duplication.”

Financial donations are also essential to the project, helping Food Bank of Alaska buy over 10,000 turkeys and allowing partners to supplement donated food.

Hundreds of people volunteer to set up and run the distribution sites and to pre-build and load the food boxes each year. Local churches, businesses, and volunteer groups collect canned goods.

Major donors for the 2021 Thanksgiving Blessing include Matson, TOTE, Mat-Su Health Foundation, Lowe’s, GCI, Skinny Raven Sports, Kendall Volkswagen of Anchorage, AT&T, Credit Union 1, and KeyBank.

For more information, visit foodbankofalaska.org/blessing.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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