UW nutrition program helps provide ingredients in Natrona County spring break food bags

Two people in front of wheat flour bags
Jamie Purcell, left, executive director of the Wyoming Food for Thought Program, and Cheryl Hackett, Cent$ible Nutrition Program educator in Natrona County, during the packing of the food bags. The bags were distributed Thursday.

Twelve hundred Natrona County children received spring break food bags in Casper Thursday with enough supplies to last over nine days.

The food bags included a baking mix from the Cent$ible Nutrition Program (CNP) to help families make a nutrition breakfast, snack and main dish.

The Wyoming Food for Thought Program (WFFTP) in Casper, along with assistance from CNP, which is part of University of Wyoming Extension, and Jan Cundy and Keyhole Technologies, LLC, worked to provide the food bags and supplies.

“We started distributing weekend food bags in January of 2013 and have never missed a weekend – summer or school year – since,” said Jamie Purcell, executive director of WFFTP.

“We’ve seen a 50 percent increase in numbers from last year,” said Purcell.

The bags include shelf-stable, kid-friendly foods like cereal, granola bars, instant oatmeal, fruit cups, cracker packs, tuna, peanut butter, soup, canned pasta, mac n cheese, and ramen, in addition to CNP Master Mix, an all-purpose baking mix.

CNP worked with WFFTP seven years ago to provide CNP Master Mix and recipes in 300 food bags. This year, with so many more bags, the two needed donations to help get all the ingredients to make the CNP Master Mix. Cundy offered to help.

Portrait of woman
Cheryl Hackett

Cundy, owner of Keyhole Technologies, LLC, learned about the need for donations through Natrona County CNP educator Cheryl Hackett during an online Wyoming Hunger Initiative taskforce meeting.

“I mentioned the partnership with Wyoming Food for Thought, and that CNP was able to provide 150 cup samples of CNP Master Mix,” said Hackett. “So, I just mentioned that we would be looking for some community donations to help fund the difference of what we would like to provide, which was three cups total for each bag.”

Cundy offered to buy the ingredients for all 3,600 cups of the mix. She was the president of the Boys and Girls Club of Central Wyoming for three years and has seen first-hand the importance of making sure kids have the food they need to thrive.

“We’re a family business,” said Cundy. “We’ve always believed in giving back. We try to give back with causes that have to do with children, so Food for Thought is very important. We just believe those kids are our future.”

CNP provided three recipes using CNP Master Mix to help students and their families make a breakfast, snack and main dish meal. The CNP cookbook has many recipes that use CNP Master Mix, so Hackett had to narrow down the options to pick those recipes that would be easy to make.

“When we were looking for what recipes we were going to provide, we were looking specifically for the recipes that don’t use a lot of additional ingredients,” said Hackett. “We wanted to increase the likelihood of students and families using the mix to make it into something nourishing that you can eat without many more ingredients.”

Made with whole-wheat flour and dry milk powder, CNP Master Mix has nutrients that are often lacking in store-bought baking mixes.

It is also cost effective.

“The ‘bang for the buck’ was really there with that master mix,” said Cundy.

The food bags were assembled March 24 and went out to students March 25 in time for spring break.

CNP offers nutrition classes and engages in community interventions to help families eat better for less. Classes are free to anyone who income qualifies and available in every county in Wyoming and the Wind River Indian Reservation. CNP is funded by the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).

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