Platte County residents have used social media avenues since COVID-19 hit to bolster a weekend food bag program for youths and to ensure older citizens have adequate food.
Cent$ible Nutrition Program educator Mary Evans reached out to her community partners shortly after social distancing protocols went into effect in March to create the Platte County Community Needs Facebook group, which now has over 1,300 members.
“The group page has been a place for sharing resources and information, from people asking for eggs to seeking volunteers and receiving information from Platte County Public Health and Emergency Management,” said Evans.
Volunteers were asked to help with the mobile food pantry, and the group page was also used to get information out about the Food 4 Weekends backpack program Evans coordinates with her neighbor, Shelley Marker, and the school lunch program.
“I announced last night that we would have backpack pickup today, and the number of bags increased by about 10,” said Evans on April 24. “In a town the size of Wheatland, that is a lot of kids not going hungry over the weekend.”
The Food 4 Weekends program serves 60 families in Platte County. Families pick up the food bags Friday mornings in the parking lot at West Elementary School.
“We serve approximately 282 people with the backpacks as we pack for the entire family, not just the students,” said Evans.
In addition to Wheatland, CNP educators have assisted with food box, school lunch and backpack program distributions in Riverton, Cody, Worland and on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Evans also has been involved with the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides food boxes to people 60 and older who income qualify.
Prior to COVID-19, seniors picked up their own boxes, but in April, the decision was made to deliver the boxes.
Again, Evans reached out to her community partners.
“I contacted members of the Community Resource Coalition,” Evans said. “Within 15 minutes of the email, I had over 10 volunteers to help with the delivery. I not only had the 10 volunteers I needed to deliver this month, I have a list for next month also. I was so worried the seniors would have to come out and possibly be exposed, but they were able to stay at home and have the boxes delivered to their doorsteps.”
Volunteers wore gloves and masks and ensured no face-to-face contact during deliveries to limit exposure.
“This community has really stepped up to the plate to help our neighbors,” said Evans. “Together, we are able to help one another handle the difficulties of this situation.”
CNP is a free cooking and nutrition education program for Wyomingites who income qualify, including people eligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. CNP is housed in the University of Wyoming Extension.
In addition to its educator program, CNP works with food pantries, but the COVID-19 pandemic has CNP sharing more resources specific to the coronavirus, such as how to make homemade disinfectant spray and providing recipes that use pantry essentials, as well as assisting with food distribution.
Gardening information and resources are also being shared. That plus resources covering numerous subjects are available at UW Extension’s coronavirus resource page at bit.ly/uwyo-extension-covid.