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Food Bank 'Leans In' To Meet Growing Demand Across WY

Food banks in Wyoming and across the nation are seeing unprecedented demand in the wake of economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Tony Woodell directs the Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies. He said they're delivering up to 80 percent more food each month over previous years. Woodell said the challenge - which is projected to last at least another 18 months, even after a vaccine is widely available - is a lot like facing a strong Wyoming headwind.

"You have to kind of lean into it, to get through it. And the Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies is leaning in to get through the wind, and we're counting on our partners to lean in with us as we get through this," said Woodell.

Woodell said one in six Wyoming residents does not know where his or her next meal is coming from. In previous years, Woodell encouraged people to come out and volunteer, but for health and safety reasons, he said financial support is the most effective way for people in the Cowboy State to help their struggling neighbors.

Woodell said in addition to securing enough food to meet the demand, the big challenge in Wyoming is that the need is spread out across vast distances. He adds the lion's share of clients since March lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and many have never had to ask for help in the past.

Woodell said, "that tells the story of exactly what's going on throughout the United States and Wyoming. We're reaching out to those families and offering them a safety net of sorts, so they can get back up on their feet, and not rely upon government assistance"

Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies works with 170 partners across the state, including local churches and larger outfits such as the Salvation Army, to get food to struggling families. The food bank also has launched a drive-through mobile pantry, where families can safely pick up food boxes packed with a week's worth of items including canned goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and dairy.