GOSHEN COUNTY – September was National Hunger Action Month; several local and state organizations, as well as citizens – young and old – have come together to ensure that all residents of Goshen County and Wyoming are fed.
According to Feeding America (FA), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting food scarcity and hunger with local nonprofit organizations, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), more 34 million Americans, nine million of whom are children, are considered to be “food insecure”; meaning these people are making impossible decisions about whether to keep something like the lights on or have dinner that day.
“The pandemic has increased food insecurity for families with children,” Feeding America wrote in a press release. “Every community in the country is home to families facing hunger – but rural communities are particularly affected by hunger.”
Adding, “Many households that are experiencing food insecurity do not qualify for federal nutrition programs and visit their local food banks and other food programs for additional support.”
According to data from Wyoming, approximately 30% of Goshen County residents are at risk of food insecurity.
According to data provided by the USDA, released on September 13, Goshen County is Wyoming’s eleventh most food insecure county.
About 15% of children in Goshen County face food insecurity on a daily basis, which is only 1.1% lower than the national average for rural and urban communities; the total food insecurity rate for adults and children in the county is 10.4%, only 1.4% lower than the national average.
In Goshen County, as food prices continue to soar due to rising gasoline prices, insufficient food supplies due to trucker shortages, and supply chain due to a variety of factors, county residents spend an average of $3.07 per meal. According to the USDA, the total food budget shortfall in the county is $686,000.
Although food insecurity is a growing concern in Wyoming, the state as a whole ranks 35th among all states due to low population density and increased support from agricultural industries.
In a press release, the University of Wyoming Extension and its College of Agriculture, Life Sciences, and Natural Resources announced that potatoes from the second annual potato crop are heading to tables across Wyoming for families facing food insecurity and families who do not qualify for food assistance programs.
“More than 10,000 pounds of potatoes from the second annual potato harvest at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) are in statewide distribution through the Wyoming Food Bank,” wrote UW SAREC spokeswoman Brooke Ortel.
“The potato harvest is a partnership between two University of Wyoming extension programs, SAREC and the Hundred$ible Nutrition Program (CNP), as well as the Wyoming Food Bank,” Ortel explained. “The goal is to provide Wyoming-grown produce to families facing food insecurity.”
According to Ortel, CNP is a “hands-on cooking, nutrition, and physical activity program that serves income-qualifying families across Wyoming.”
CNP Director Mindy Meuli wrote, “The potato harvest is a natural partnership between CNP and UW’s extension agricultural experiment stations, such as SAREC.
Adding, “The potato harvest is a natural partnership between CNP and UW Extension agricultural experiment stations like SAREC. This is an incredible opportunity to connect SAREC’s locally grown foods to the families we serve in Wyoming,”
Food Bank of Wyoming spokesperson Jes Stanbury wrote, “The Food Bank of Wyoming has partnered with two University of Wyoming outreach programs to bring locally grown potatoes to the tables. families in Wyoming.
Continuing, “Through the efforts of the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) and the Cent$ible Nutrition Program (CNP), over 10,000 pounds of potatoes were harvested and bagged on September 24 at SAREC , outside of Lingle, and donated to the Wyoming Food Bank.
Food pantries across the state and in Goshen County rely on these types of programs and donations from residents to help provide families with fresh produce and meat.
“Fresh produce adds variety to pantry staples, but can be risky due to spoilage,” Ortel said. “The donation of local produce helps mitigate this risk and produce like potatoes is particularly sought after due to its long shelf life and resilience during transport.”
The 2022 potato harvest was made possible by the efforts of more than 30 volunteers who bagged potatoes in a SAREC field near Lingle on September 24.
“Volunteers included graduate students and faculty from the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources; UW Extension and SAREC faculty and staff; master gardeners; church youth groups; and women from the Wyoming Women’s Center,” Ortel detailed.
Wyoming Food Bank programs spokesperson Samantha Maxwell wrote, “It is wonderful to see people coming together to serve all of Wyoming’s communities.
“With the severe challenges communities face in providing for their families, we are grateful to UW Extension, SAREC and CNP who are working to help alleviate hunger.”
CNP Director Kali McCrackin wrote: “We are very grateful to all the volunteers who came out to help bag the potatoes and are delighted to have surpassed our goal.
Donated potatoes are grown as part of UW’s SAREC outreach efforts and in 2021, approximately 6,500 pounds of potatoes were donated to the Food Bank of Wyoming. This year, the program nearly doubled the amount of potatoes it produced and donated 10,920 pounds of potatoes, surpassing its 2022 goal of 10,000 pounds.
“SAREC is pleased to partner with the Cent$ible nutrition program and many local volunteers to make this happen,” wrote SAREC Research Scientist Brian Lee. “It continues to be a good program for the state and local communities.”
Adding, “We appreciate all the help from the SAREC staff who grow and harvest the potatoes and look forward to continuing in the future.”
Potatoes harvested and transported from SAREC are available to food pantries and other partners through the Food Bank of Wyoming; the potatoes will also be distributed through mobile pantries across the state to reach more rural areas.
Additionally, CNP works with local food pantries to provide families with recipes and resources for using, telling and cooking potatoes safely.
Wyoming Food Bank Executive Director Rachel Bailey wrote, “We are grateful to the University of Wyoming’s extension programs, SAREC and Cent$ible Nutrition Program, for donating locally grown potatoes to benefit of our Wyoming neighbors in need.
“With inflation and higher fuel prices, many families are asking for food aid for the first time, so these potatoes will be a welcome addition to our distributions to Hunger Relief Partners this fall,” Bailey explained.
Stanbury added, “the potatoes, usually grown for outreach efforts with local schools, were bagged and packed on pallets.”
“Local potato harvest partnerships make it a special project while reducing the burden of hunger in Wyoming,” Stanbury explained. “The Wyoming Food Bank’s involvement in the potato harvest goes hand-in-hand with September’s Hunger Action Month.”
However, some of Goshen County’s younger residents also donated much-needed food to residents at risk of facing food insecurity, which will be in a future. Telegram story. This story will feature 9-year-old Eli Case’s efforts to donate meat to the Goshen County Friendship Center in Torrington as part of Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, First Lady Jennie Gordon’s partnership with Wyoming State Fair’s Fair to Fork program.
Additionally, an update Telegram the story will feature Land of Goshen Ministries (LOGM) with its updates and how the local nonprofit is also working to address food insecurity in the county; the ministry holds a silent auction of vintage items to raise funds for its programs.