Celebrating local food

Feeding Laramie Valley is inviting the community for a celebration this weekend.

Food and Fun in the Park is set for 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at the organization’s LaBonte Park headquarters, 968 N. Ninth St. The free event includes lunch, live music, dancing, information booths and family activities.

Lina Dunning, community engagement coordinator for Feeding Laramie Valley, said the end-of-summer party has become an annual tradition since the organization began leasing its building from the city four years ago.

“We’ve felt that we like to celebrate that and invite everybody in once a year for a celebration,” she said.

The menu includes steak or vegetable fajitas, squash and corn salad called calabasitas, pinto beans and melon.

“We always focus on fresh, local food, so the menu reflects that,” Dunning said.

Live music and the Snowy Range International Folk Dancers will provide the entertainment. There will also be informational booths from local organizations and games and activities for children.

“It’s just a really nice party,” Dunning said.

Feeding Laramie Valley got its start when volunteers set up a booth at the Downtown Laramie Farmer’s Market to collect extra produce from customers and sellers. The organization donated what it collected to area non-profits that served food, such as the Laramie Soup Kitchen.

“That was the first attempt to make fresh, local food available to everybody, even people that couldn’t afford to shop at the market,” Dunning said.

Lunch at Food and Fun in the Park will be purchased from vendors that have supported Feeding Laramie Valley’s work, such as Painter Produce, Sheila Bird Farms, Twin Buttes Cattle Company and the Butcher Block.

“We have several vendors locally and from the farmers markets that are really generous to us during the season,” Dunning said.

Feeding Laramie Valley has also begun growing its own food at LaBonte Park and the Albany County Fairgrounds, where gardens cover about an acre of land.

The organization has expanded into the education realm, with issues such as food justice and food security at the forefront of its mission. Feeding Laramie Valley started the Higher Ground Fair last year as a celebration of rural life in the West. Dunning said the organization is hoping to support entrepreneurial programs in the future.

“The research shows that the more local gardens and the more local food that’s grown, the more food-secure a community is, and also more healthy,” she said.

Dunning said she’s expecting at least 300 people of all ages to drop by for lunch on Saturday.

“We feel lucky to be here,” she said.

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