First Lady of Wyoming and Wyoming Hunger Initiative founder Jennie Gordon's column originally appeared in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. It is republished here with permission.
Food insecurity is a largely invisible problem, most typically experienced within the privacy of a home or kept an uncomfortable secret in a school setting. Walk into any grocery store in Wyoming and it's hard to imagine how anyone might not have enough to eat, but that's the irony of hunger: it isn't that there isn't enough food to eat, but that families and children aren't always able to access that food. Kids who don’t have reliable access to food are much more likely to face unhealthy, unsuccessful, and uncertain futures.
This is an all-too-real challenge in Wyoming, where one in every six children—approximately 24,000 kids—may not know where their next meal is coming from. That isn’t OK with me. It simply isn’t who we are in this great state, where food is plenty, and neighbors have always cared for one another. Raised in a family of ten children, I always had enough (but just enough) to eat. My parents instilled in me how important it was to be grateful for what we had, to never waste anything, and to give back if we were fortunate enough to have extra. When Mark and I traveled around the state campaigning in 2018, we learned many communities were already developing strategies to combat food insecurity with that Wyoming “can-do spirit”. When he was elected, I immediately knew my initiative as First Lady would be to support the work of these anti-hunger nonprofits and work towards solving hunger, together.
Wyoming Hunger Initiative launched last October with a three-fold mission. First, to highlight the work of these tireless “hunger heroes” fighting food insecurity statewide so more of our friends and neighbors across the state might join in their efforts. Next, to introduce “Breakfast After the Bell” programs to Wyoming school districts as part of a partnership with No Kid Hungry, a national organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger; I believe that no child should ever face the school day hungry. Finally, we set the goal of creating long-term solutions with a diverse group of partners so our efforts weren’t merely a temporary fix, but a solid, measurable approach to reducing overall food insecurity rates. It has been wonderful to witness the overwhelmingly positive response to Wyoming Hunger Initiative; individuals, organizations, and businesses stepped up with their time, their generosity, and their innovative thinking to brainstorm ways to take action.
One of these solutions is an innovative new program called Food from the Field. As a hunter myself, I take the responsibility of being a good steward of our natural environment very seriously. My first time harvesting an animal was at the inaugural Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt in Ucross eight years ago. I felt empowered by the mission of the women’s foundation, which promotes self-sufficiency and utilizes Wyoming’s greatest resource to achieve it. I knew Food from the Field might allow our most vulnerable neighbors to share in this bounty by encouraging hunters to donate part or all of their game, thus providing a unique opportunity to help break the cycle of food insecurity. By partnering with Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies, Wyoming Game & Fish Department, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, and processors across the state, the odds are good that we will achieve this goal. I’d like to invite any hunter to consider participating in the program; the more hunger heroes we have in the fight, the brighter our future will be.
I think we can agree that times are difficult right now, with no immediate relief in sight. But Wyoming has always been a leader in taking care of her own. I am proud to serve this state and proud to work with partners to create innovative solutions to hunger. There are grassroots organizations fighting hunger in all 23 Wyoming counties, and they are always looking for someone just like you: a proud Wyoming citizen who looks out for his or her neighbors, in good times and bad. With your support, programs like Food from the Field can have a tremendous impact on reducing food insecurity. I think we can also agree that’s some much-needed good news.
We can end hunger in Wyoming, together.
Visit nohungerwyo.org/field to learn more about Food from the Field!