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Knights of Columbus Cheyenne Treasurer Joe Prunty unloads a box of peppers at St. Joseph’s Food Pantry on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, in Cheyenne. The Knights were dropping off the last round donations from Loveland, Colorado-based Miller Farms, which offered fresh produce for the pantry at a discounted price. Margaret Austin/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the donor's mother had passed away, but that was incorrect. The error is due to incorrect information provided to the Tribune Eagle. The Tribune Eagle regrets the error.

CHEYENNE – When people are struggling to put food on the table, fresh fruits and vegetables are normally the first items they drop from their grocery lists, according to St. Joseph’s Food Pantry Administrator Renee Gamino.

That’s one of the reasons Gamino and St. Joseph’s team of about 100 volunteers try their best to provide healthy, fresh options for those using the pantry. Monday morning, thanks to a generous anonymous contribution and the help of the Knights of Columbus, four truckloads of farm fresh produce was delivered to St. Joseph’s from Miller Farms in Loveland, Colorado.

Especially for the seniors, Gamino said, “When they see fresh produce, they get so excited.”

The partnership with the Knights of Columbus, Miller Farms and St. Joseph’s Food Pantry was born last year from a substantial donation, though the group of donors wanted to stay anonymous. Gamino said one of the donors’ mother loves contributing to the food pantry, and the donor and some friends decided to honor her dedication to St. Joseph's by paying for produce.

Securing the funds to pay for the produce was only half the battle. Having met the donors through the Cheyenne Farmers Market, Joe Miller from Miller Farms agreed to sell three weeks of produce to the pantry at a discounted price. The Knights of Columbus hopped on board, ready to use their trucks and manpower to transport the goods.

Knights of Columbus Cheyenne Treasurer Joe Prunty said, “We have the resources to do it, and it’s something that’s needed in the community, so we were very glad to be able to help.”

Monday’s drop-off marked the last week of Miller Farms’ contribution for 2020. As soon as the trucks arrived, the Knights of Columbus got right to work, hauling giant bags of produce, some picked just days earlier.

“From peppers to potatoes to corn, onions, carrots – you name it, we’ve got it,” Prunty said.

While this is the second year St. Joseph’s has received produce from Miller Farms, the circumstances at the food pantry are much different than last year. The COVID-19 pandemic caused financial hardships, with businesses shuttering their doors for health-related closures and laying off or cutting hours for employees.

In February, St. Joseph’s gave out 1,657 boxes of food to those in need. In March, when the coronavirus reached Wyoming, that number jumped to 2,377.

While St. Joseph’s has risen to the occasion, finding creative solutions like the Miller Farms and Knights of Columbus partnership to meet the need, Gamino said they still need community support. They’re expecting their demand to remain high, with people coming to the end of their severance pay or facing layoffs in weeks to come.

“People are still always looking for how they can help,” Gamino said. “We still can use donations, whether it’s monetary or nonperishable items.”

This story originally appeared online at Wyoming News.com and on the Wyo News app at 5 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15.

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government

reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter at @MargaretMAustin.

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