Flats of cans and boxes sit on top of wooden pallets in the back room of the Kemmerer Emergency Food Bank. Numerous fridges and freezers occupy another room. One freezer has a large bottle of hand sanitizer sitting in front of it to keep it closed.
The Kemmerer food bank serves about 42-45 families during a quarter, coordinator Karen Wallentine said.
“There are those who utilize it once and there are those who come every week,” Wallentine said. “We will serve them no matter what.”
According to Wallentine, the number of families that utilize the food bank has gone down since the beginning of COVID-19.
“You would think there would be more,” Wallentine said. Before, the food bank would serve 25-40 families on any given day but now it’s about 42 families per quarter and most do not come every day, Wallentine said.
The food bank receives food through Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies, Colorado Food Bank of the Rockies and the Emergency Food Assistance Program in addition to donations from the community. According to Wallentine, food banks can now accept game meat if it is processed by a state certified processor.
“During COVID-19 there has been a higher-than-normal volume of fresh produce, eggs, cheeses and more like that available for us to get for patrons,” Wallentine said. This helps give a little variety to the patrons. However, items like SpaghettiOs and canned meats are hard to find.
The CARES act funding has provided the opportunity to get a new freezer for the food bank, according to Wallentine.
Wallentine said the only thing that has really changed for the food bank since COVID-19 is that they have patrons wait outside for their food boxes now instead of coming inside to collect them.
“We might keep that change,” Wallentine said. “People have gotten trained now for the pick-up. Plus, it gives us more room to prepare the boxes inside.”
Wallentine said the food bank gets a lot of donations from the community, monetary-wise and food-wise.
“People have really stepped up,” Wallentine said. “We have a really compassionate community.”
Wallentine said for some items like tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce and other tomato products, she is still using stock from food drives from two to three years ago. Wallentine said a lot of the food donations come in around the holidays but the community is good about monetary donations all year round.
“We’ve made a point to educate the community about the food bank and the needs year-round,” Wallentine said.
Wallentine said the thing she is most thankful for is the volunteers who work tirelessly to make the food bank a success and the gracious hosts at the Episcopal church.