By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Food pantries across Wyoming are struggling to meet an increased demand for assistance due to the pandemic because of supply chain issues seen around the nation.
“Because of the rise of the cost of fresh produce and protein – the same things that impact anyone who goes to any grocery store to purchase their personal groceries – we see that on our level, “ said Victoria Ziton, community relations for Food Bank of Wyoming.
Food pantries like Food Bank of Wyoming rely on donations to give a hand-up to families who have hit hard times. But disruptions such as labor shortages and transportation issues have resulted in a reduction of available food and other supplies.
“We most recently had two entire semis delayed because of the weather between Cheyenne and here,” Ziton said, “and those trucks couldn’t get through because they’re not used to driving in Wyoming weather.”
It’s not just transportation issues that are causing problems, she added.
“We are noticing that a lot of the donated products that were coming our way are not coming our way this year,” she said. “So that has made it necessary for us to purchase items that we would normally have received as a donation, and those items are costing us even more than they would have in past years.”
With the holidays approaching, some food items that used to be purchased in bulk aren’t available anymore.
Taylor Albert, executive director for Cheyenne’s Needs, Inc., said that turkeys in particular are hard to come by this year.
“The turkey prices are still pretty reasonable for what we’re used to seeing,” she said. “However, we are not able to buy in bulk from stores like we used to, so we are having to purchase in stores like individuals would, and then we are being subjugated to the limits that the stores are opposing on individuals.”
Albert explained that they are working with volunteers to purchase turkeys from grocery stores one by one, since many stores limit purchases to one bird per visit.
“Wing Shack (restaurant) in our area is doing a turkey drive for us to help meet that need, as well as Ken Garff Automotive Sales,” she said. “They are doing a turkey drive on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week to help us meet that need.”
But food isn’t the only casualty of a broken supply chain. For Needs, Inc., necessary equipment has also been delayed.
“We have a refrigerator ordered,” Albert said, explaining that they needed more space to hold food because of the jump in numbers of people requesting assistance. “And the fridge we’re waiting on is about eight weeks out – and we ordered it about eight weeks ago.”
Ziton said Food Bank of Wyoming is also seeing an increase in the number of people needing assistance, especially in the more rural parts of the state.
“We’re actually seeing a number of our mobile pantries that are doubling in the number of recipients that are coming in requesting,” she said.
“Before the pandemic we were at about 31 households,” Albert said. “Currently we average 94 households a day.”
But Albert praised the community of Cheyenne, which she said has been very supportive of the food bank’s efforts.
“Our community has been outstanding, and they have helped us through every step of this,” she said. “We raised $148,000 this past year for our new cooler and pantry so that we could sustain that new level of demand that we are seeing. And so that’s a big piece of this puzzle for us to keep feeding our community.”
“I would encourage everyone to reach out to any local hunger relief partner in their community and make certain that they have what they need going into the holidays,” Ziton usaidd. “And on the other side of the holidays, as well. People often forget that hunger persists into January, and volunteers are worth their weight in gold to these hunger relief partners.”