China trade war adds 620,000 pounds to Food Bank of Alaska
The national trade war with China has a silver lining for Alaskans. Millions of pounds of food that China isn't buying are being bought by the U.S. government and sent to food banks around the country, including here at home.
"We've received about 620,000 pounds more food than we normally would," said Jim Baldwin, CEO of the Food Bank of Alaska. Baldwin estimates that's about a two-month supply.
On average, he says about 52,000 Alaskans benefited from the food bank last year. With the boost in supply, the organization has been able to send more food to rural communities. In the first four months of this fiscal year, regions like Aleutians West, Bristol Bay, Dillingham, Ketchikan, Kusilvak, the Northwest Arctic, Sitka and Yukon-Koyukuk, have all received more food than the entire previous year.
"What we see is that the rural communities are where there's a high prevalence of food insecurity," Baldwin noted.
According to studies cited by the Food Bank of Alaska, roughly 1 in 7 Alaskans struggle with hunger, 20% of children live in homes that may not have enough food and roughly 1 in 10 seniors face the threat of hunger.
In a live on-air poll Monday, Daybreak asked viewers whether they have ever experienced food insecurity and 62% of respondents said yes. Baldwin says he's not surprised by the result.
"When you think about the cost of food in Alaska, everything is more costly up here," Baldwin said. "Folks that are just struggling to make ends meet, paying rent, all of those types of things, usually the thing that they're able to give up is food. So they do without."
Besides canned meat, the Food Bank is receiving prized items, like frozen meats, as a result of the trade war. The food is a big boost for the organization, at a time when Baldwin says the shelves are normally a bit thinner.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Bloomberg Sunday that the U.S. is on-track towards signing phase one of a trade deal with China this month. Alaska is among the suggested locations for the signing.
In the meantime, Baldwin says he is expecting some more food shipments to result from the trade mitigation work.
"All the indicators right now, talking with our federal delegation, and everything else, is that this is going to go into 2020," Baldwin said. "Even if a trade agreement is signed, it's going to take a lot of time for that to ramp up."
Baldwin says while the food bank will accept food donations of any type, he says they are most in need of high-protein, shelf-stable items.
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