The Saratoga Sun -

Foodbank braces for winter

Local service organization faces yearly challenge


From left, Gage Bartlett and Jaxon King put food collected by the Saratoga Middle/High School student council away.

At a time when families across the Valley join together with friends and family to celebrate the holidays with family feasts, a group of dedicated volunteers at the Platte Valley Food Pantry is helping those who may find themselves in a tight spot during the time for sharing.

"We need more food during the winter," Janice Kerpan, a volunteer at the foodbank, said. A lot of people don't work, or have hours cut, during the winter months and that, she said, can increase families' need for help, she said.

Last year, the foodbank helped 85 families across the Valley and delivered 269 monthly boxes of food to those who needed it.

The foodbank is operated jointly by Valley churches, with each church and its parishioners collecting food and helping with distribution. The foodbank is also affiliated with the Food Bank of the Rockies, a Colorado-based nonprofit with an office in Casper.

Much of the food is purchased from local grocers like Valley Foods using money donated by individuals and groups. Grocery stores like Valley Foods even help the foodbank by giving the organization special price breaks and even donating food, Kerpan said.

The Valley foodbank also accepts donations of foodstuffs, with much donated food being provided by the Food Bank of the Rockies.

Local groups also help out with donating food, Kerpan said. Just recently, students from Saratoga Middle/High School delivered five large baskets of food and donated time to help store and organize the food.

Kerpan said the organization gets a lot of support from Valley churches and groups at schools.

The foodbank also has over a dozen volunteers who help out on a regular basis, and they are assisted by members of the clergy at churches across the Valley.

A lot of the families who rely on the foodbank do so because of either seasonal employment situations, or because of medical bills, Kerpan said.

"You work your whole life and make money then you get sick and it's all gone," she said.

And in small town life, it can be hard for people to maintain a sense of confidentiality, she added. But one goal of the foodbank is to provide help in a discreet manner.

The foodbank gathers information about those asking for assistance, including the number of people in the household and some other information that is used to determine the proper amount for food for a family given their situation.

Each month, families in need show up at the foodbank and a prepared box is given to them to provide food for the people in the household. People can also receive coupons good for the purchase of fresh produce at Valley Foods, Kerpan said.

Because the foodbank does not have a refrigerator, it cannot store produce.

It can, however, store frozen goods like frozen vegetables, fruits and meats. Supporters can donate packaged meats if they wish, or they can donate game meat.

"A lot of states foodbanks can't accept game meat anymore," Kerpan said. "We're lucky here that we can."

From left, wrestlers Gage Bartlett and Jaxon King join wrestling coach Zach Schmidt in bring food to the foodbank.

Game meat must be processed by a meat processor, Kerpan said. Most Valley meat processors give the foodbank a special rate to process donated game meat.

For those who may need the foodbank's services, one of the best ways to get help is to contact a clergy member at a local church, Kerpan said. The foodbank has set hours, but in the case of a critical situation, clergy will help make arrangements for the foodbank to help out on an emergency basis.

Otherwise, people can show up during the foodbank's regular hours 4-5:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month, and 10-11:30 a.m. on the second and fourth Saturday of each month.

The foodbank is located at 112 East Bridge St. Suite E in Saratoga. Those in need, or those wanting to donate can call 307-326-5520 or 307-329-8464.


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