Studies show that Albany County has the highest rates of food insecurity in the state. One organization hopes to fix that with the help of a $400,000 Food Project Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The group, Feeding Laramie Valley, has applied for the grant three times, but Director Gayle Woodsum said this is the first time anyone in Wyoming has received it. She said usually the grant is offered to urban agriculture projects, but that now, with shifts in the national consciousness, there may be more interest in hearing ideas from rural food producers.
Her organization has been growing and distributing fresh fruits and veggies to the Albany County community since 2009, but Woodsum said this grant will help them think bigger. For example, they want to pair experienced farmers and ranchers with newbies to help pass along their knowledge.
“Also working with a pipeline of entrepreneurs who are interested in getting involved in food production of all kinds. So making different kinds of food they can sell in different ways,” said Woodsum.
Woodsum said they also hope to create a food hub in Laramie where such products can be distributed around the state.
“A couple of large studies have been done in the state of Wyoming that tell us that, yes, Wyoming could independently take care of its own food system,” she said. “But it needs a series of food hubs around the state because we all can grow different things in different parts of the state that feed into a central distribution channel.”
Woodsum said the grant builds community collaboration because it requires a 100 percent match from the community in the form of volunteering, cash or donations.
She said only 30 food project grants are given nationwide each year with thousands of applications submitted.