Helping provide Thanksgiving meals
November 22, 2023
Green River shoppers heading in and out of Smith's last Saturday were greeted at the door by young men in uniform asking if they could donate to help make sure everyone will be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. Many stopped to hand over bags of groceries, which quickly filled up the shopping carts with a large "Scouting for Food" sign attached.
Boy Scouts of America Troop 312 helped cover Green River for the annual event.
"Every year, the weekend before Thanksgiving...we get donations for the food bank in Sweetwater County to help anybody that needs to get food for Thanksgiving so they can have a meal to celebrate Thanksgiving," Troop leader Daryl Wadsworth explained.
This year's food drive went great, according to Wadsworth, with the scouts collecting 1,977 pounds of food and $1,200 in cash donations.
The purpose of the event each year is just to help anyone in need of food, Wadsworth said.
"That's our main priority is to help the community out in any way we can," he continued, adding that this event is especially to help those in need "so they can celebrate Thanksgiving."
The event also benefits the Scouts who participate, Wadsworth said, by giving them more chances to do community service.
"And it shows that anybody can do it and anybody can help anybody out in their time of need," he added. "And [the scouts] really enjoy doing it every year."
The annual Scouting for Food campaign is just one of the ways the community has come together recently to support the Food Bank during their busiest time of year.
"There is an increased need for our services during the wintertime due to things like high heating bills, seasonal work ending, and back to school expenses," the Food Bank of Sweetwater County explained in a statement. "We have seen a large increase in families in need of our assistance this month."
There was a 31% increase in families receiving assistance this month compared to last year, with 455 families receiving food assistance so far this month in Sweetwater County, as compared to 347 families last year, the Food Bank explained. Of those families, 76 were new - a 58% increase compared to last year's 48 new families.
"The month our services are needed most is in November," the Food Bank said.
This increased need is felt both in Sweetwater County and throughout Wyoming.
"The fact is, we are continuing to see an increase in need across the state, and we're spending more on food this year than in years past," Food Bank of Wyoming Executive Director Rachel Bailey said in a press release.
The Food Bank's monthly spending on food has nearly tripled compared to pre-Covid spending, according to a press release. Rising costs impact both the Food Bank and the citizens of Wyoming.
Currently, Wyoming's statewide inflation is at 4.6%, exceeding the national rate of 3.7%, the Food Bank of Wyoming pointed out. Wyoming's food inflation rate for consumer spending stands at 7% and housing is at 6.1%.
"If someone is in a position right now where their heating bill is rising and their rent is not flexible, those instances can add extra pressure and stress on their budget," Food Bank of Wyoming Director of Development Jill Stillwagon said. "That's why seeking food assistance from our mobile pantries and Hunger Relief Partners is a great solution."
While the Food Bank finds ways to address rising costs, the organization is still able to source food for Wyoming families in need, particularly through bulk food purchasing capabilities, the Food Rescue Program, and donations.
"Right now, our Hunger Relief Partners are sourcing holiday food from Food Bank of Wyoming to prepare for the holidays," Stillwagon said. "Our role in being able to purchase food in large quantities and pass those cost savings to our Hunger Relief Partners so they can distribute food is so critical during the holidays."
One of the organizations supporting Food Bank of Wyoming this year was the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB) Young Farmer & Rancher (YF&R) Committee through their annual "Harvest for All" project. This year the fund drive and raffle to benefit the Food Bank of Wyoming raised $2,414, which is the equivalent of 7,242 meals for Wyoming families facing hunger, according to a press release.
In Sweetwater County as well, the donations have been coming in. From the food and money contributed by the Boy Scouts last weekend to boxes of apples donated by the Green River High School Wolf Pack Dance Team to a $500 donation from All West, the Food Bank of Sweetwater County has been gathering donations - and putting them to good use.
"Yesterday in Green River, 127 families received food assistance," the Food Bank posted on Facebook last Friday. "Diaper assistance was also available. Thanks to Wyoming Food Bank, there was fresh produce. Thanks to Green River Smith's for delivering chickens. Thanks to Wyoming Hunger Initiative Jennie Gordon, First Lady of Wyoming for providing funds for holiday foods. Thanks to everyone who made this possible!"
"Our neighbors in Wyoming are counting on the generosity of community members like you to help provide comfort and joy this Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season," Stillwagon from Food Bank of Wyoming said. "The best way to support our Wyoming neighbors who are seeking food assistance from Food Bank of Wyoming, or any of our mobile pantries or Hunger Relief Partners, is to make a financial donation. We're able to make three meals out of one dollar, which allows us to make a bigger impact."
Financial donations can be made directly to the Food Bank of Sweetwater County online at foodbankswcty.org or by making checks payable to "Food Bank of Sweetwater County" and mailing them to Food Bank of Sweetwater County, 90 Center Street, Rock Springs, Wyoming, 82901. Donations of food items are also welcome.