Pinedale Mobile Pantry Shows What Community Really Looks Like

Pinedale Mobile Pantry Wyoming Volunteers Lions Club
Pinedale Lion’s Club volunteers at the Pinedale Mobile Pantry.

As soon as the semi-truck pulls into the parking lot, Vern grabs his walking stick and starts walking over.

“I call it my balancing rod,” he said, motioning to the smooth wooden stick he carved himself. A former rancher and bronco rider in the rodeo, Vern also sports two braided bracelets, one copper, one silver, and a silver horseshoe necklace that he also made. “If you prop two sticks up together, they’ll just fall over. But three? Then it’s solid.”

Vern, a volunteer who picks up food for a neighbor. Vern is one of more than 150 people who prioritize attending the monthly Food Bank of Wyoming mobile pantry in Pinedale. Not to get food for himself — “I’m 80 years old, I don’t eat much. A little jerky, now and then,” he said with a wink — but to get food for a woman in town who is raising four kids on her own.

“The Food Bank is a fabulous program,” Vern said while surveying that day’s delivery of fresh produce, eggs, crackers, protein, and more. “It helps a lot of people that really need help. It really does. And, you know, I know that for a fact.”

Pinedale has a population of about 2,000 and sits nestled between the Wind River Mountain Range and the Wyoming Range — popular spots for outdoors enthusiasts, tourists headed to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, and anyone looking for a slice of cowboy-town charm with a backdrop of beauty. The town is also an hour-and-a-half drive from another grocery store, making the local market residents’ primary — or only — option for purchasing food.

The situation is common in Wyoming, where there are more small towns than large cities and the state’s abundance of open land and remoteness are part of the appeal. But it makes accessing affordable, nutritious food challenging, and many people in Pinedale struggle to put food on the table while keeping up with their other bills and basic life essentials.

Kimberley in their car at a mobile pantry in Wyoming“The food I get from the mobile pantry means my electricity won’t be shut off and I can eat,” shared Kimberly, who recently retired after managing a bar in Pinedale for more than 20 years and whose husband is currently experiencing health issues. She also takes care of her mother in law. “All the money that I would spend on food — this helps. Grocery prices have tripled since the pandemic. I get a little extra cushion there so I’m not freaking out yet.”

Fred inside their vehicle at a mobile pantry in Wyoming

Kimberly was second in a long line of cars waiting for the mobile pantry to begin. Fred was first in line.

“I was born and raised here, so I’ve been here 72 years, “Fred said with a smile. “I worked heavy equipment construction of all kinds. Now I’m retired and divorced and live by myself with two dogs and three cats. And yeah, I’m just trying to survive. Groceries are very expensive. Any extra help I can get is always a bonus.”

Kimberly and Fred echoed what other community members, including volunteers, explained about living in Pinedale: it’s beautiful, but it’s not easy.

Shirleena and her two-year-old black Labrador, Maddy, in their car at a mobile food pantry in WY“Oh my gosh, we appreciate the Food Bank so much,” beamed Shirleena, whose black Labrador, Maddie, was in tow. “We couldn’t make it without you. It just helps so tremendously. And you guys are wonderful. And we thank you so much.”

Shirleena and her husband have lived in Pinedale for 15 years. Her husband works in general labor, but a few years ago fell off of a roof and broke his back, leaving him with injuries that inhibit him from working long days or as hard of jobs. Shirleena used to work three part-time jobs to help make ends meet, but recently retired.

“I have never, ever seen so many people hurting so bad. I’ve never seen the line this long in Pinedale, and I know some people don’t come because they want people in more need — like me — to get it,” she said. “You know, and they could come too and get help, because they need it, too, but they don’t. They let others have the food.”

She continued: “It is hard, and food prices are getting outrageous. And the wages aren’t going up. This mobile pantry is really part of the community. It’s like a network.”

Hannah Stone and Katie Facklam - food bank of Wyoming volunteersHelping organize the mobile pantry are several members of the local Lions Club chapter, mostly retirees, but also younger folks like Katie Facklam, who teaches art and is the National Art Honor Society sponsor at the high school in Pinedale.

“Our kids love to volunteer at the mobile pantry,” shared Katie, who was there volunteering with one of her students, Hannah. As long as they’re getting good grades and sign up in time, “they’re released for two periods of school once a month to come down here and help our Lions Club unload the truck, fill the boxes, and load the boxes into the cars. It’s such an absolute ‘touch to the community’ moment and opportunity for my students. They love it. They thrive. It’s so wonderful.”

Like many of the volunteers, including Katie, several of the honor society students also receive food from the mobile pantry.

“Pinedale is really in a food desert; everything is trucked in, so consequently, the costs are high in town,” explained Katie. “Vegetables, oh my gosh! The vegetables and fruits and everything the mobile pantry brings is like gold. What a financial benefit for the mouths of the babies and parents in our town. Our town is so great. We support each other and everything else, but there’s one thing that we can’t touch: the cost of our food.”

Trudy, Nicky (8yo girl), and Marshall (5yo boy), in their car at a mobile pantry in WyomingAs Katie and Hannah keep organizing boxes of food, two little smiles beam from the inside of the third car in line. Rachael, her two kids, and her mother, Trudy, are also regular attendees of the mobile pantry.

“We started using the Food Bank when I got divorced. Because, you know, one income, single mom, two kids — it was rough,” shared Rachael, who works full-time as the office manager of a plumbing company. “You know, the first of the month, all your bills come out. So then you’re like, okay, now what? But thanks to the mobile pantry, at least we have food.”

To support Food Bank of the Wyoming programs like mobile pantries, please consider becoming a FEED365™ monthly donor or making a one-time donation today. Thank you!


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