At the Casper City Council meeting on Tuesday, council approved sponsoring a Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) with the Wyoming Food for Thought Program and the Casper Housing Authority, while denying one presented by Erin Marquez.

The CDBG program in Wyoming is done through the Wyoming Community Development Authority (WCDA) and has several million dollars available for distribution to approved projects that apply by September 30, with funds being awarded by January 2022.

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Several people representing Wyoming Food for Thought and the Housing Authority were at the meeting to speak in favor of their sponsorship.

The Food for Thought proposal involves addressing the food desert that exists in North Casper by purchasing the North Casper School, remodeling the Good Food Hub, and turning them into areas where they can distribute food more easily to people who currently don't have as much access.

Candice Cochran, a member of the Food for Thought board of directors, spoke about what the grant funding could provide to the North Casper community.

"The Food for Thought program center that was proposed for this funding will be the center of the North Casper neighborhood, planning on growing food on all the exterior lands, adding in the grocery store, food bags, free storage, tool share, urban farms, offices, community rooms, gymnasiums, mobile farmers market, indoor farmers market, a greenhouse, hydroponic growing, a seed library, a commercial kitchen incubator, and culinary training program, as well as serve safe classes."

The Housing Authority proposal involves renovating Willard Elementary, which closed in 2018, to be used as administrative offices for the Housing Authority, a childcare center, community kitchen, and preschool classrooms.

Yvonne Fairbanks, director of the Housing Authority's childcare center, said they work to support children who would otherwise not be supported, and the proposal would help them do that.

"We work diligently with a very diverse demographic of kids and families that most place will not consider taking, or end up dismissing them after the introductory period. We work with foster kids, babies born on drugs, kids who's family life is complicated, whether abusive, they are seeing abuse, or drugs."

Council member Bruce Knell said that the city only voted in favor of partnering with the groups, which still need to submit and application to the WCDA, which may or may not approve their project.

While council denied Marquez's proposal, restoring a condemned building on 1st and North Center street with CBDG funds, council members Kyle Gamroth, Knell, and mayor Steve Freel all hoped she would apply again with a more concrete plan.

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