Green River Star -

By Stephanie Thompson
People Editor 

Food bank prepares for winter 

 


Grants, community support and volunteers keep the Sweetwater County Food Bank going.

Recently, the Food Bank, which operates Green River and Rock Springs locations, received a $60,000 grant from United Way of Southwest Wyoming. This money will go toward operating expenses, including building and van insurance, pay roll and office supplies, Executive Director Kathy Siler said.

With these items covered, the food bank can focus on what’s really important — providing food to those who wouldn’t have any otherwise.

This is the time of the year when various organizations, schools, church groups and businesses host their own food drives for the food bank; and with winter approaching it is perfect timing.

With the downturn in the economy, the food bank usage increases, she said. In fact, in July, the food banks were serving a total of 414 families, which is an increase compared to other years.

“It does decrease as we get closer to summer, but it’s still a lot more than say it was four or five years ago.” Siler said.

Or even a year ago for that matter. Last July, the food banks gave out about 21,000 pounds of food. This year, that number increased to 30,760 pounds.

In August, the food banks had an additional 200 families sign up for services. Siler is anticipating these numbers to keep increasing as the cold weather sets in, but by how much is still up in the air.

“I’m not really sure what this winter will bring,” Siler said.

In the winter, residents have more bills then they normally do in the summer, including medical bills for children in school and heating bills. 

“A lot of times there’s a choice between heat and food,” Siler said. “We’re there so they don’t have to make that choice.”

Both food bank locations will give food to anyone who needs it. Siler said residents are required to fill out some information, but food bank employees and volunteers make sure the clients feel welcome. One way they do this is by allowing clients a choice. Siler said a lot of food banks give each family a box a food and their clients are not allowed a say in what they get. Sweetwater County clients go through the food line and pick out what they will eat, Siler said.

As for the food provided, they try to keep it healthy, but know these clients need treats too. The food bank accepts non-perishable boxed and canned items, including soups, stews, fruit, vegetables, pasta, cereal, meats and rice. 

Currently, the food banks are low on popular items, including canned meats such as tuna, chicken, beef and Spam, stews, rice, pasta, canned fruit, and cereal.

“We go through a lot of cereal,” she said.

Regardless of what’s donated, the employees make sure it goes to someone in need.

“We use everything,” Siler said. “Every can counts.”

On distribution day, Siler has three employees and about 34 volunteers on hand to help. She said they have regular volunteers who are there all the time and seasonal volunteers. She said sometimes the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts volunteer on distribution day.

Currently, Siler has a full slate of volunteers, but community members are always welcome to fill out a volunteer application and Siler will call them when they are needed.

Other programs

The food bank also helps out with the Totes of Hope program, which is a program designed to help feed low-income school children on the weekends. Currently, backpacks are filled with food and sent home for those who qualify at the Rock Springs and Green River Head Start locations and at Rock Springs Roosevelt Learning Center, which offers classes to both Rock Springs and Green River students.

Another program the food bank is a part of is the Feeding America program. Through this program, several grocery and convenience stores give the food bank food that would normally be thrown away.

“We’re at max capacity on that now,” Siler said.

If donations and the Feeding America Program isn’t enough assistance, Siler also uses Community Service Block grants to purchase food from the Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies. She said she can buy ten times the amount of food she could as regular stores by going through the Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies. For more information on the food bank, visit the website http://www.foodbankswcty.org.

 

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