Local efforts to combat hunger continue amid pandemic

About 13% of Park County residents struggle with hunger

Posted 9/30/21

For years, people have helped themselves to vegetables from Powell’s Community Garden, robbing those who tend the plots of their hard-earned produce — and typically getting away with it. …

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Local efforts to combat hunger continue amid pandemic

About 13% of Park County residents struggle with hunger

Posted

For years, people have helped themselves to vegetables from Powell’s Community Garden, robbing those who tend the plots of their hard-earned produce — and typically getting away with it. But Patty Paulsen, who helps oversee the garden, received an unexpected Facebook message this summer: A local woman confessed to stealing the garden’s lone cabbage, and offered to help weed the plots in return.

Paulsen responded that she appreciated the woman’s honesty.

“And she says, ‘Well, we’ve just hit hard times’ — her husband got laid off during the pandemic — ‘and we just need some help,’” Paulsen recalled.

The woman wound up getting much more than a single cabbage. Paulsen, who is the president of the American Legion Post 26 Auxiliary, tapped into the post’s emergency assistance program. They provided the family with “four great big boxes of food — fresh vegetables, hygiene products, whatever they needed,” Paulsen said.

“It made a difference,” she said. “And we truly believe that if more people just listened to their neighbors or watched, you would encounter more kids that are hungry, families that aren’t eating — and we want that information so that we can help them.”

Every month, the Legion distributes commodities to area residents in need, working in conjunction with the Food Bank of Wyoming. They deliver commodities to elderly residents who don’t want to leave their homes and the organization has taken food to people ill with COVID-19.

“Especially nowadays, with the pandemic and people, we’ve got to change things around and appreciate our neighbors and help thy neighbors, checking on thy neighbors, make sure there’s food,” she told the Powell City Council Sept. 7.

The council unanimously approved a resolution marking September as “Hunger Action Month,” proclaiming that addressing food insecurity “is fundamental for the future of the City of Powell.”

The stated intent of the proclamation, signed by Mayor John Wetzel, is to “encourage all citizens to increase their understanding and awareness of food insecurity and how it impacts our nation, state, county and communities.”

The document says about 13% of Park County residents struggle with hunger, with one out of every six children unsure of where their next meal will come from. Each year, more than 3,800 county residents rely on commodities provided by Food Bank of Wyoming, the proclamation says, with Powell Valley Loaves and Fishes, Mannahouse in Cody, the American Legion and other organizations partnering to assist local residents.

During the 2020 holiday season, the Legion, Auxiliary, local businesses and volunteers provided 242 Thanksgiving turkeys to families in need and distributed additional turkeys and hams at Christmas. Paulsen said it’s also been a “phenomenal” year for Powell’s community garden; she told the council that the plots have yielded vegetables for seven different families, plus Big Horn Enterprises’ group homes. Even the theft of the cabbage wound up being OK, she said, because the produce went to a good cause.

Paulsen thinks the pandemic experience has brought the community closer.

“[I’m] very proud to call Powell our home and how ... if one [person] is in crisis, everybody joins in and helps out,” she said.

Although commodities are only distributed once a month, Paulsen said those who find themselves in need at other times can call the Legion at 307-754-3411 and they’ll try to help.

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