The Saratoga Sun -

Food pantry still open to provide services

Saratoga Food Pantry receives increase in donations, encourages use of services

 

Joshua Wood

The Saratoga Food Pantry has a basket at Valley Foods that has been filled to the top on a regular basis since the effects of the novel coronavirus.

Over the past several weeks, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted many facets of Americans' way of life. The price of gas has plummeted, unemployment has soared to numbers not seen since the 1930s and the use of food banks in the United States have significantly increased.

In Wyoming, the Wyoming Hunger Initiviate, spearheaded by First Lady Jennie Gordon, committed $40,000 to food banks or mobile food pantries in all 23 counties of the state. Here in Saratoga, the Saratoga Food Pantry will be a recipient of $300 from those funds. The pantry, run by the Platte Valley Ministerial Association (PVMA) has been receiving a number of monetary donations along with donations of perishable and non-perishable food.

One of the most recent donations made to the food pantry is that of 180 pounds of hamburger.

"That filled one of our freezers. It filled our small chest freezer," said Pastor Gene Smith of the Platte Valley Christian Center. "That is going to be a tremendous help for people."

In addition to the 180 pounds of hamburger, Smith said that a donation basket that is left at Valley Foods is often filled to the top with donations of food and other needed items. Donations have also been made through the various churches in the Valley, as their congregants donate for the food pantry.

While the small food pantry has been seeing an increase in donations, it has not seen a corresponding increase in use of its services.

"My concern is that people in the community may not know we're still open or know our times or, for some reason, feel as though they can't participate," Smith said.

Smith believes that there may be a number of people in the Valley and surrounding areas that are in need but are unsure if they meet qualifications to use the services of the food pantry. According to the pastor, he considers everyone in need of the services.

"We do have just one stipulation; that we only give a food box per family once a month, unless there's a real emergency," said Smith. "That's in order so we have enough food to distribute to other people but, if they really are in need ... we won't say no to someone."

In addition to supplying food to those in need, the Saratoga Food Pantry also has funding to aid people in paying their utilities bills, rent or mortgage. With a per person cap of $300 it may not seem like much but can go a long way to help someone who may have been laid off due to the public health orders issued by the State of Wyoming. Those who are still working and may just need a little help with bills can ask for help as well.

The $300 per person limit is due to the amount that is earmarked for the use of such funds. If there is a need that goes beyond that amount, Smith said that there may be ways to fund that need.

"If somebody's just struggling because they've been laid off ... and they need a little bit of extra help, we do have some funding. There may be some other ways we can fund that," Smith said. "There are other churches that are willing ... if we reach out to them and make the need known, there might be other people who might like to help out."

The hours of operation of the Saratoga Food Pantry are limited. The pantry is open on the first Tuesday of every month from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on the second and fourth Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Currently, due to the recommendations of social distancing, only one family at a time is allowed into the pantry.

If anyone is in need of the food pantry's services outside of the operating hours, there are multiple avenues of communication. Those in need can speak with a pastor at any church in the Valley or they can call the Platte Valley Christian Center at 307-326-5520 and speak to Smith.

Those in need can also contact the Saratoga Town Hall at 307-326-8335 or the Saratoga Police Department at 307-326-8316. Monetary donations can be made by sending them to:

Platte Valley Ministerial Association

P.O. Box 1113

Saratoga, WY 82331

The Saratoga Food Pantry is located at 112 E. Bridge Avenue Suite E in Saratoga.

 

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