Wyoming Food for Thought Project began in October 2012 in response to a needed solution to the holes in the hunger safety net. Led by Jamie Purcell, Executive Director, Food for Thought seeks to work toward ending hunger as part of an overall community effort to alleviate poverty, through providing food accessibility resources, educating through workshops and classes, and empowering through SNAP, Double Up Food Bucks and more.
Wyoming Food for Thought Project is continually evolving, and is working hard to bring new and exciting opportunities to the Casper community. We are trailblazers - we are the change we want to see in our community, and we want you to join us.
Continue scrolling through this page to see the progression of how we've gotten to where we are today.
The first program Wyoming Food for Thought Project implemented was our weekend food bag program. At the time of our inception, there was an existing program in Natrona County, but talk of the school district discontinuing the program set Jamie into action of finding a solution. There were (and still are) roughly 3,000 food insecure children in Natrona County, so there was no choice but to have a weekend a food bag program in Natrona County.
After establishing the program, we were on a mission to source as much local food as possible.
Then, in spring of 2013, we were approached by a friend with the Downtown Casper Community Farmers Market Board regarding an opportunity to take over management of their summer farmers market. In our minds, we thought we were going to meet all of these amazing local growers and producers with an abundance of local food that we could put in our food bags!
Even if we put local fresh produce or value-added items in once a month, that would be better than nothing, right?
Well, we quickly learned that there was too high of a demand for local food, and little to no leftover produce up for grabs at the end of the market night.
Although we couldn't aggregate local food for our food bags, this spoke volumes to the demand for local food in our community, so we started hosting a winter farmers market, creating Casper's first year-round farmers market opportunity for producers and consumers.
In May of 2013, we decided to throw out a few seeds and stick a "Food is Free Community Garden" sign in the dilapidated flower bed in front of our old office space in the former Hillcrest Water Building.
We heard concerns around, "what happens if people take the food?!?" but is it considered stealing if the food is free?
That summer, plants were watered, weeds were pulled and produce was picked...by who, we're not sure, but it felt like a success to us.
In 2014, we moved to the former Winter Memorial Church in north Casper, the current location for our Program Center and Urban Farm. We packed bags, managed our markets and planted in the existing 33 beds on site.
Since moving to this location, you can now find over 100 garden beds on site, including a high tunnel for season extension and a four-season greenhouse. We also manage a handful of other community garden locations around town, which totals over 250 raised beds for community access throughout Casper.
Good Food Hub
What could be next, you ask? And the answer, at least to us, is more local food, better access to that food, living wages for our small business owners (the growers and producers of these foods), infrastructure to build and expand their businesses, aggregation and distribution of these local goods and connecting local grocery stores and restaurants to these foods.
And with the amount of time we have been in existence, the hurdles we have come upon and the direction we are headed, we have come up with what is our best and most diverse solution - the Good Food Hub.
The Good Food Hub is a culmination of ideas near and far related to local food. It is a business incubator for small-scale food producers to help their businesses grow and thrive outside of the once-a-week farmers market model. It will encompass multiple shared commercial kitchen spaces, an on-site greenhouse, food hall stalls, a downtown grocery store, coffee bar and juicery, indoor and outdoor event spaces, a warehouse for aggregation and distribution of local products throughout the state, a culinary training program for disenfranchised populations and so much more.
All of this will take place at the former Powder River VFW located at 420 West First Street. The building has been purchased and design documents are in the works.