The Stone Soup Cafe, one of Fairbanks’ main soup kitchens, typically sees a drop in demand each fall. That didn’t happen this year.
“It has been difficult to keep enough food here. We had to buy food for the very first time,” said general manager Hannah Hill.
When asked why, Hill explained, “With what’s going on in Anchorage, people are trying to find more resources and safety and community. So here we see people from the Valley and from Anchorage as well.
Anchorage is currently struggling to open shelters for its homeless residents, forcing most of them to camp outdoors – a growing problem as winter approaches.
Hill also said, “When the state refused to extend its state of emergency, people’s food stamps went down. It happened at the beginning of this month.
Typically, the Stone Soup Cafe serves around 500 to 1,000 more meals per month in the summer than in the winter, mostly due to a general decrease in population over the winter. Many people who have come for seasonal work are returning home or in general hiding.
“Since January of this year, the numbers have only gone up,” Hill said.
Moving into the Bread Line building on Noble Street brought a sense of stability to the city’s homeless population – hungry Fairbanks knew there was a reliable place to grab a meal.
“Before that, we didn’t have a house for ourselves. So because we’re stable, more people can reliably use our services,” Hill said. “Also, since there is no municipal day shelter here or a place or means for people to warm up, we are one of the few places where people can actually come in, warm up and take a shower, etc.”
In the past, organizations such as No Limits and JP Jones operated warming stations. This year, these stations are not operating, further narrowing the options for the homeless.
“People are just outside in the now sub-zero temperatures, they’re wet and they’re cold. Currently we are trying to get as many warm clothes – hats in particular, gloves and hand warmers as much as anything in the world. It’s the difference between real life and death,” Hill said. “We see so many people here losing fingers, toes, more, sometimes their lives, because there is no safe place to go. And we are only open for a very short period of time”
“We’re in this fight with a lot of people, and everybody’s trying as hard as they can, and I think we need more,” Hill said. “One of our mottos is that any way someone wants to help is a way we need help here. We are so lucky to have the support of our community at the level that we have.
Stone Soup Cafe is a non-profit community soup kitchen run by Bread Line, Inc. dedicated to feeding people and affirming lives. Every day they serve hot and hearty soup, oatmeal with fruit and a full entree as well as sandwiches and snacks to go. Bread Line accepts donations online or in person and is always looking for volunteers. They are currently specifically asking for hand warmers and lunch snacks.
Mariana Low is an intern at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and a student at West Valley High School. She can be reached at [email protected]
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