CASPER, Wyo. – With the sudden impact of COVID-19 shutdowns on top of an energy sector that was already slowing, Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies is already seeing a quick uptick in need.
“We’re doing all we can to get as much food out as possible to the local food pantries and communities to supply the needs of all those people who are hungry out there,” said Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies director Tony Woodell.
Over the past week, many bars, restaurants and movie theaters have closed or dramatically reduced services. Hotels have gone from busy to nearly empty. These factors will no doubt put even more pressure on communities around the state.
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The requests coming into the food bank are increasing from local pantries, said Woodell, especially since the vast majority of schools have closed to reduce the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.
“It’s putting a backload on us,” he said.
Woodell says working guidelines at the food bank’s Evansville facility aimed at minimizing coronavirus spread is also slowing down the process.
Volunteers handling food inside the facility have been reduced to fewer than 10 to increase social distancing. Woodell says the small full-time staff is also screened for any signs of illness.
“What I’ve told them is very simple, the community needs us so we need to take are of ourselves,” said Woodell.
“The biggest bottleneck we’re dealing with is transportation,” he said, “getting the food from our facility out to the sites.”
The agency uses three semi-tractor trailers and one box truck to distribute 900,000 pounds of food every month, and they’re running at full capacity.
“They’re on the road constantly, there’s no downtime.”
Woodell says there are many ways the community can help support the Food Bank of the Rockies. Financial donations of any size are always welcome, and considerably preferable to direct food donations since it’s far more efficient.
A new truck would also be extremely beneficial, he said.
“We know based on what the CDC is saying and what the state government is saying, it’s going to get worse inside the state,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate because our population is small, but it’s coming. We just need to be prepared for it.”
As need increases around the state, Woodell says the food bank intends to be ready.
“The phrase that I’m using is ‘lean in,'” said Woodall. “We want to be one of those groups that are leaning in to the problem, rather than shying away from it.”
Donations can be made to Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies at their website.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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.