Food-packing event makes a difference in Laramie County

Photo of three volunteers with their hair covered measuring food into mixing containers with shelves in the backgroundA jovial mood hung in the air of the Element Food Pantry on a brisk September afternoon as dozens of volunteers packed thousands of meals. Britney Spears was pumping from the Bluetooth speaker, interrupted by the ringing of bells that signified another mile marker had been crossed in the afternoon’s great task.

The Meals of Hope food-packing event was sponsored by The Edington Family Enrichment Fund through the Laramie County Community College Foundation. Meals of Hope is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) committed to bringing people together to fight the hunger epidemic. Since 2007, Meals of Hope has packed more than 80 million meals that have gone to communities in need across the nation and the world.

Volunteers packed a stunning 10,588 meals to be distributed throughout Cheyenne food pantries during the Sept. 18 event. It’s an initiative that will make a real difference for those in need in the community, including potentially college students, said Lynn Montoya, meal packing partner with Meals of Hope Wyoming and Colorado.

“It is the focus of The Edington Family Enrichment Fund to make a difference in Laramie County,” she said. “Statistics show that students who face food insecurity are more likely to have health concerns, lower test scores, struggle socially and behaviorally and have lower graduation rates.”

More than one-in-10 households in the U.S. are food insecure, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wyoming sat just above the average for food-insecure households at 11.2% of those surveyed, which compared to a low of 5.4% in New Hampshire and a high of 15.3% in Mississippi.

Food insecurity affects all of the Cowboy State’s communities and the impacts are far-reaching, Montoya said. The work being done to help address hunger, therefore, is important.

“The issue of food insecurity has plagued communities across the country, and Wyoming is no exception,” Montoya said. “Food insecurity affects all zip codes and in Wyoming — that's nearly 80,000 people. Wyoming also is affected by the medical cost of food insecurity, which is nearly $83 million. The work our Wyoming Food Bank and food pantries do daily and with the Meals of Hope meals that are packed by businesses, civic groups, foundations, school groups, and religious organizations can make a difference throughout our Wyoming communities.”

For the volunteers, Montoya said the events are more than just a good time. The people committing their time and effort really know their work makes a difference.

“I believe that volunteers volunteer because they know that they are a vital part of our communities,” she said. “If we didn't have them, a lot of work wouldn't be done, including packing meals with Meals of Hope. Meals of Hope brings fun with our great attitude and makes our events last no more than two hours of packing time. When volunteers see that in two hours, they have packed the goal of ‘X’ number of meals with their friends, co-workers or neighbors and see the instant results, they feel proud of what they have done. Our motto is communities coming together to end hunger!”

Established in 1968, the LCCC Foundation exists to develop and sustain support for Laramie County Community College through solicitation, management, and recognition of donations. The Foundation is dedicated to providing services and assistance to students, faculty, staff and the community, thereby enhancing a sense of tradition and pride in the college.

For more information about Meals of Hope, go to mealsofhope.org/wyoming.