A local food pantry is seeing a big drop in the number of people using their services.

Alan Budahl, director of Lutheran Social Services in Anchorage, said numbers are down compared to last year.

"We are still serving over 1,100 families, so the number still is high," Budahl said. "But it hasn't been as high as it has the last few years, where we have an increase every month over the prior year."

Budahl said the dip started in November and ran through January. Now, the group is feeding roughly 150 fewer families than before.

It's not clear why, Budahl said, although he notes that numbers were also down this year for several community events including the HUGSS program for school supplies, Thanksgiving Blessing and the Neighborhood GIFT program at Christmas time.

According to Budahl, it's possible people left the state after receiving their Permanent Fund dividend checks, or may have gotten the help they need. Either way, Budahl said, that could be a good thing.

"We like to see it; we want the numbers to go down instead of up," Budahl said. "So we hope this trend will continue."

But while the total numbers are down, Budahl said the number of seniors using the pantry has gone way up.

"We were averaging about 150 a month last year; this year we are up to 300," Budahl said.

Not all food pantries have seen a decline in needs. Catholic Social Services said its count of visitors is holding steady. A spokesman for the Salvation Army said that group has seen an increase in people using its food pantry for the very first time.

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