Nurturing Cheyenne’s children with weekend meals
Many children in Laramie County School Districts 1 and 2 were too hungry during the school day to focus on their coursework. Although Wyoming’s governor signed an executive order in 2018 setting a goal of 67 percent of Wyomingites to hold a post-secondary certificate or degree by 2025, this goal remains unattainable if children are so malnourished or hungry that they can’t be taught the basics like reading and math.
Overcoming childhood hunger
The Friday Food Bag program, started in 2007 and established as the Friday Food Bag Foundation in 2009, makes a difference in the Cheyenne, Wyoming, community by providing nutritious, non-perishable food, particularly over the weekend, to children with inconsistent access to meals. The efforts of the Friday Food Bag Foundation are being aided by a $20,000 contribution from the Microsoft Community Empowerment Fund.
Friday Food Bag partners with the community and other local organizations to provide bags of food to students in need on Fridays. Initially it was only 50 per week, but as word of the program spread, donations from churches, civic clubs, and individuals helped Friday Food Bag expand, now distributing over 800 bags per week. The filling and distribution of Friday Food Bags is done by community volunteers, at a cost of $5 per bag. Along with a dozen other community groups, Microsoft is also providing volunteers to help fill the food bags on Fridays, at a rate of 1,400 bags in under an hour.
Joining forces in the Cheyenne community
The Friday Food Bag Foundation board is comprised entirely of volunteers, from diverse backgrounds and knowledge, but with the common goal of making a difference to Cheyenne’s children. Importantly, Friday Food Bag volunteers and educators ensure discretion when handing out bags, to ensure that children from economically disadvantaged households don’t feel singled out among their peers.
Microsoft has existing relationships with the Cheyenne Area Boys and Girls Club, and many beneficiaries of the Friday food bags are also members of the club, allowing Microsoft’s work to be even more effective and focused. Many recipients of the food are members of underserved groups, such as rural residents, females, and minorities.
This community effort is supported by community leaders, parents, and teachers via an active social media presence and provides an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and hunger in the Cheyenne community.