Food for Thought see 50% increase in Natrona children needing weekend food bags in 2020 - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Food for Thought see 50% increase in Natrona children needing weekend food bags in 2020

Pathways Innovation Students volunteering with Wyoming Food For Thought Project as they prepare Christmas Break Food Boxes. (Courtesy Natrona County School District)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Food for Thought Project said on Monday, Jan. 25 that they saw a 50% increase in the number of children in Natrona County needing weekend food bags during 2020.

“The pandemic put a strain on so many things we all take for granted,” Food for Thought said. “In the past, local food drives, churches, schools, and drop sites helped fill the shelves. But when we were all asked to stay home and stay safe, the standard ways of doing things just weren’t possible anymore. And things haven’t returned to normal.”

“Gratefully, many donors made significant contributions and helped offset the need to purchase food, and then purchase even more food.”

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Food for Thought Executive Director Jamie Purcell said they are now providing about 1,200 food bags weekly which she said is “more than we could have imagined.”

Food for Thought said that they have grown from serving 170 children through the weekend food bag program eight years ago to about 1,200 today.

“Over the past 12 months, 375,000 meals were give to local kids free of charge and no questions asked,” Food for Thought said. “The Little Free Pantry located adjacent to the Program Center and Urban Farm has also seen an increase in use.”

“Additionally, our Food is Free Gardens provided free locally grown organic produce to our neighbors with no questions asked.”

Food for Though said that they were able to provide 46,000 meals during the early days of the pandemic.

“After the school shut down and Spring Break ended, Food for Thought resumed their food bags, and worked with school advocates and the Bus Hub to make sure kids continued to receive their weekend food bags,” Monday’s release said.

The holiday season again saw a demand to provide food to children and families with food.

“A long standing partnership with Townsquare Media helped provide 400 Thanksgiving meals to local families,” Food for Thought said. “The Wyoming Hunger Initiative, created by First Lady Jennie Gordon, was a major advocate for hunger relief as well.”

“And at Christmas, working with Townsquare Media, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming, Casper Housing Authority, and Natrona County School District, 3,000 local kids were provided with toys and over 78,000 meals in the Casper area during the holiday break.”

Food for Thought said that the pandemic has created challenges in terms of finding volunteers since many are in high risk categories. However, they said they have been able to find creative ways to continue delivering food to children.

“With the continued needs of our community still here, we ask you to consider getting involved in whatever ways you can,” Food for Thought said. “Pack food bags on Wednesdays, deliver food bags on Thursdays, hold a food drive, or just donate. Visit our website for more ways to get involved.”

The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:

What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.

If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.

Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.

For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email:

  • Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.