When the pandemic hit the Laramie community, food banks saw an increase in visitors. To continue to support those facing economic hardships this fall, Feeding Laramie Valley implemented the Kids Home For Dinner program to provide kids with two homemade meals for the weekend.
The meals also come with an activity that kids can do alone or with their family.
"We're including activities to go in these boxes that the children can work on with the full instructions and materials that they need to make the activities," said Feeding Laramie Valley founder Gayle Woodsum. "And so it's just allowing us to both help supplement income and just to help deal with this difficult economy that people are facing that actually is continuing to grow."
The Kids Home For Dinner program is meant to give kids access to nutritious meals every day of the week in conjunction with school lunch programs, and to reach those students who may not be going back to school in-person.
"What we had learned through our shares program and through our meals program was that regardless of whether families were getting food through the school system for their kids, so many jobs have been lost, so much economic stress, as well as social and emotional stress, has been occurring," said Woodsum, "And not all families were being reached by the school system because not all families were sending their children back to school. And on and on with all the multiple layers that we've all come to expect because of the pandemic came into play."
Woodsum said the program is about more than a couple hot meals.
"We pay a great deal of attention to the emotional and psychological and social needs around food. We all understand that. We all understand how, yes, we need food to stay healthy and to be healthy, but also food is a way that we connect with each other. It's a way that we're just nurtured on every level," said Woodsum.
The process is completely to-go and everyone must wear masks and maintain a six-foot distance, but the pick up area still fosters social connections
"People, and often they come with their children when they're picking these up, they're able to chat, and the children especially are very excited to be able to see their foster grandparents who currently are not being permitted into the school system to do the usual work, which is one on one mentoring with children," said Woodsum, "So they've been very excited to see, 'Oh there's Grandma So-And-So and Grandpa So-And-So,' and they can say hi. They know everyone's still here, we're still there for them. And it just gives another brief but really important social contact along with these wonderful meals."
Meals can be picked up at the Feeding Laramie Valley headquarters on Friday afternoons between one and six - the same time as the food shares program that gives fresh fruit and vegetables to those who sign up. They're free to kids and available to adults for a suggested $1.50 donation. The program will run through December 22.
Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Ivy Engel, at email@example.com.