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Bean’s Café funding for Centennial Park has run out

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — Beginning July 1, Bean’s Café has been offering free meals in Centennial Park to homeless Anchorage residents. On July 5, the organization went from one meal a day to three meals.

“We hope this helps people stabilize. If they don’t have to worry about where they’re having their next meal, what it’s going to be or how they’re going to eat,” said Lisa Sauder, CEO of Bean’s Café. “People have to have two basic things to be able to do anything else. You must have food and shelter before you can worry about a job or anything else.

The decision to serve food at Centennial Park, Sauder said, was in response to bear-human encounters, fire dangers and their patrons’ continued need for a reliable food source. To help eliminate bear encounters, the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department has also provided picnic tables for people to use with the Bean’s Café food truck. Sauder said this will help clear food at campsites and they will remove and dispose of all trash.

“People need more than one meal a day if they can’t cook at a campsite and if they don’t have access to a grocery store where they can buy food or use SNAP benefits,” said Sauder said.

Bean’s Café spends $2,200 a day to fund the program. This money covers staff costs, a generator for the food truck and food. Bean’s Café raised a total of approximately $21,000 to fund the program. However, Sauder said on Wednesday the program used all the money it raised to provide food.

“We don’t have designated funding for this. There’s no contract for that, we’re using community funds here to feed people every day,” Sauder said.

The closest place to buy food, according to Sauder, is half a mile away, at a Holiday gas station. However, for the vulnerable homeless population, this is not always feasible, especially when the nearest public transport is also 800m away.

“We realized people needed to be fed where they were,” Sauder said. “Instead of the old soup kitchen model and people coming to you, we need to be more mobile and go where they are.”

The Bean’s Café now faces the challenge of raising additional funds to maintain its catering service to Anchorage residents at the Centennial Campground, which is especially difficult as the cost of food has increased.

“It’s really important for the community to step up and help us make sure no one goes hungry in our community,” Sauder said.

Bean’s Café encourages anyone wishing to donate towards the cost of food to visit its website, where it accepts donations.

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Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement