On the Road with the Food Bank of Wyoming
How one single mom brings food to the hungry
- Published In: Other News & Features
- Last Updated: May 03, 2022
Kendra Piper sits behind the wheel of her truck. She drives across the state to deliver food to those in need on behalf of the Food Bank of Wyoming. (Courtesy photo)
By Kristi Eaton
Special to the Wyoming Truth
Kendra Piper remembers growing up watching as her single mom struggled to put food on the table.
As a single mother herself to a 6-year-old, Piper is keenly aware of having enough – enough money for food, enough food for a healthy life.
As a driver for the Food Bank of Wyoming, not only is Piper helping to put food on the table for her own child, but she works to deliver millions of pounds of food to families across the state. A nonprofit based in Evansville, the Food Bank helps address a significant problem in Wyoming: over 67,000 people struggle with hunger. That’s 1 in 9 residents—and 1 in 7 children in the state, according to the data from the nonprofit, Feeding America.
“Seeing the daily struggles of not having food on the table every night is extremely strong for me and knowing that I’m helping another mom—single mom—with her kid to put food on the table is just really special for me,” said Piper, 26.
Piper earned her commercial driver’s license through a program called Climb Wyoming, which provides training and job support for single moms across the state. She joined the Food Bank of Wyoming in September 2020.
A BIGGER ISSUE
Food insecurity, a measure of the availability of food, has been a recurring issue in the United States, and Wyoming is no exception. But the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated already entrenched inequities for some people and families.
Nearly half of residents in the United States would not have adequate knowledge of food benefits programs if they were to face hunger. And nearly the same number of people—almost half the country—says they worry about feeding their households, according to a recent survey by hunger relief organization WhyHunger.
According to the survey, 49% of Americans know someone who has experienced hunger in the past year. In addition, 17% say their household experienced food insecurity for the first time during the pandemic, and 11% say their household experienced food insecurity at a heightened level compared to before the pandemic.
“We live in the wealthiest nation in the world with access to so much, yet we continue to face alarming hunger rates,” said Noreen Springstead, executive director at WhyHunger, in a statement. “For far too long the U.S. emergency food system has been unreasonably tasked to meet rising demands when we know for certain it will take a lot more than handing out food to make a lasting impact on food insecurity levels. At its core, the problem has never been lack of food, but a lack of access and a lack of social justice. Until we uphold the protections of food as a basic human right for all, this long persistent hunger narrative will continue to prevail.”
In the wide expanses of Wyoming, some communities do not have a grocery store, leading to even greater reliance on the Food Bank of Wyoming to provide sustenance residents. The Food Bank of Wyoming delivered 12 million pounds of food throughout the state in 2020, up from 10 million in 2019.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DRIVER
On any given day, Piper can find herself working in the warehouse loading trucks or driving to Cheyenne from Casper early in the morning. No two days are the same.
“The challenge is making sure to find time to actually get everything done,” she said. “And then the challenge with driving is making sure I get there on time. The greatest reward is seeing all the happy smiling faces as they get their food.”
Piper is no stranger to treacherous driving conditions, notorious in some of Wyoming’s winding roads.
She recalled a snowstorm in 2020 and what was going through her mind:“Take your time,” she told herself. “It’s better being late than never getting there. Just always be aware of your surroundings. Take your time.”
To help with the long stretches of time on the road, Piper said she listens to pop and country music and “cheesy romance” audiobooks.
For Piper, working at the Food Bank of Wyoming, which depends on donors and puts 96 cents of every dollar into food distribution. means helping in a meaningful way.
“Hunger can honestly be found everywhere,” she said, “often where we least expect it.”