JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —
Through a variety of programs and services, the Armed Services YMCA of Alaska has been enhancing the lives of military members for more than 70 years.
While available year-round, the ASYMCA’s food pantries is one such service that experiences increased use during the holiday season.
“It’s about making a difference in someone’s life,” said Brina Lynch, ASYMCA of Alaska program director. “Our food pantries play an important supplemental role for those in need each year. Unforeseen circumstances are consistently a top reason service members seek the program’s assistance, whether it’s an unexpected financial situation, adjustment to the cost of living in Alaska or a medical emergency, the AYMCA ensures no military family goes hungry.”
The ASYMCA of Alaska operates three food pantries – two located on JBER to serve Anchorage and South Central Alaska and one at Fort Wainwright to serve Interior Alaska. They are provided at no cost for military service members and families of all branches, regardless of rank.
The pantries are available to active duty, guard and reserve service members and their dependents.
A big selling point for the program is its anonymity. No referral or documentation of financial need is required, and no appointment is necessary. Any information collected during sign-in is solely to verify military affiliation and is held completely confidential.
Since the program does not receive any federal or state funding outside of contracts for service, it relies solely on support from the Alaska community, including food drives run by JBER and Anchorage affiliates, as well donations from community grocery stores.
“Through donations from individuals, units, and office food drives, we’re really able to connect not only with the individual who needs the assistance or use of the pantry, but we’re also able to connect with our supporters and partners and bring everybody together for the common good,” Lynch said. “We are able to immediately help those who are struggling with food insecurity or maybe something else in which the food pantry can help them free up funds in order to take care of another issue.”
The pantries gladly accept donations. Some items in constant need are non-perishable foods, baby food, frozen meat (no wild game), toiletries, hygiene items and diapers.
Recently, a unit did a ruck march in which each participant carried 20 pounds of food and dropped it off at the ASYMCA. Food drives to support the pantries are always welcomed. Some units on the installation have permitted their members who supported the pantries to wear jeans on a given day, and JBER schools have also held drives to support the pantries.
“We recognize the direct impact this program has on community and being able to help directly with whatever situation you’re going through,” Lynch said. “It’s incredibly rewarding. We’re here to serve those who serve. The help we can provide might be just enough to help them open up on another issue.”
Lynch said one of the best parts about working with the ASYMCA is the sense of community she witnesses with visitors and the smiles on their faces.
There’s no limit on the amount of food taken, but the recommendation is take just enough to satisfy the actual need.
For those who don’t cook often, ASYMCA staff has been offering education and advice on how to cook items like raw chicken and ground beef.
The food pantries locations on JBER are at the ASYMCA Welcome Center (JBER-E) at 10449 Luke Avenue, open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and at the Fort Richardson Office, located at Building 655 (Warrior Zone), open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Those interested in volunteering, donating or inquiring about the many services offered by the ASYMCA can call the JBER-E office at 552-9622 or the JBER-R office at 384-9622.
“I believe nobody should go hungry and it breaks my heart to know there are people out there in need, and I’m just glad we have this program that can make a difference and support those who support our country,” said Pam Miller-Johnson, ASYMCA of Alaska program assistant.