Interfaith-Good Samaritan Executive Director Mike Vercauteren explained to the Laramie City Council during its meeting Tuesday that while the nonprofit’s new building on Canby Street provides 50 percent more square footage than its current location in the Laramie Plains Civic Center, the space is “not quite sufficient” for the food pantry.
Interfaith is working with city staff to apply for a $500,00 Community Development Block Grant to help expand the food pantry to better store and distribute food. The Council voted on a resolution approving the submission of the application during Tuesday’s meeting.
Although the nonprofit gave away around 882 pounds of food per day last year, Vercauteren said Interfaith regularly receives 10,000-15,000 pounds of donated food from the Food Bank of the Rockies. Due to current storage limitations, those donations — along with those stemming from the occasional cargo from crashed semi-trucks on Interstate 80 — must be distributed within a matter of hours, he said, sometimes too quickly for people who need it to get there.
“Right now, when you think about the volumes of food that needs to come into our community to help people that are experiencing food insecurity, there is really no capacity for storing that food,” Vercauteren said.
The potential food storage capabilities, Vercauteren explained to the Council, are a big motivation for the grant-funded expansion. He added Interfaith currently works with other food donation organizations like the Laramie Soup Kitchen and Feeding Laramie Valley to help distribute food, partnerships that are expected to continue as they address the expected 6,500 people experiencing food insecurity in the county.
Nonprofits are not permitted to apply directly for the grant, which is why the city is assisting Interfaith with the grant application and implementation process. Funds can only be awarded to municipalities or cities with populations of fewer than 50,000 residents.
“Aside from a significant investment in staff time and resources in the administration of this grant, no city of Laramie funds will be used for the match for this grant or any portion of this project,” said Sarah Reese, city administrator for economic and community initiatives.
While it hasn’t done so since about 2004, the city has partnered with community organizations and nonprofits for projects with the grant in the past, including improvements downtown and the demolition of a refinery on Cedar Street.
Mayor Joe Shumway, who said he serves on the board for Interfaith, said he felt there was “no organization that’s more deserving of this type of assistance.”
“Pleased to hear” the extra space would help with commodity storage issues, Councilman Paul Weaver said while it wasn’t necessarily a serious problem, it was an issue he also felt needed attention.
The Council voted to approve the grant application submission unanimously, with Councilor Brian Harrington absent from the meeting and vote. Reese said the application will be reviewed in the late summer or early fall, with expectations for an update as to whether the city will be awarded the grant around the end of the year.