Hunting is not a new concept to me as my entire life has been scheduled around hunting season. My sister and her husband operate an outfitting business near Jackson. My step dad owns an outfitting business near Cody. My grandpa taught me Hunter Safety and my dad took me to harvest my first antelope when I was 12. Since then, I have been on both deer and elk hunts that have taken me far from the beaten trail and for days at a time on horseback.
Last year, for the first time, I was able to participate in the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt which was founded in 2013 by the Wyoming Women’s Foundation as an opportunity for mentoring and developing camaraderie between women. Hunting is a long-standing Wyoming tradition and a skill that honors our state’s cultural roots. Teaching women to hunt can help them feed their families nutritious food and fulfills the Wyoming Women’s Foundation mission of investing in economic self-sufficiency of women.
As an avid outdoorswoman, I had never thought about the connection between harvesting, self-sufficiency, and the nutritional value of high quality protein for families who may not have abundant access. Upon joining First Lady Gordon's office in January 2019, I was quick to learn about her passion for Wyoming families and her commitment to eradicate hunger in the Cowboy state. Wyoming is uniquely positioned to create innovative solutions to challenges.
In May 2020, First Lady Jennie Gordon’s Wyoming Hunger Initiative launched Food from the Field, a collaboration between the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies, and meat processors throughout the state to streamline game meat donations to food pantries across Wyoming. The ultimate goal of Food from the Field is to utilize Wyoming resources to combat food insecurity.
I was fortunate enough to be able to join the Merlin Ranch for a second time at the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt this month and I was overwhelmed by the possibility of harvesting an antelope and donating it to a participating processor who in turn prepared it for local organizations to distribute to our neighbors in need. Nearly 71,000 of our Wyoming neighbors struggle with food insecurity and that is not ok. By donating to Food from the Field, I was able to enjoy hunting but also ensure that the meat was properly cared for and distributed among neighbors. What’s more is that all deer, elk, and moose will undergo appropriate CWD testing to ensure safety prior to entering the food bank system.
Recently, we heard from a senior center in Afton that had distributed venison from Food from the Field and the recipients raved about the addition to their commodities program as high quality protein is typically difficult to obtain at an affordable price. Wyoming’s majestic landscapes offer hunters some of the best opportunities in the world; Food from the Field enables them to share that bounty by donating the meat if they wish.
I am still pulling antelope out of the freezer from last year which made my decision easy when it came to donating my meat this year. The First Lady often refers to conversations she had with her parents growing up which in turn inspired the workings of Wyoming Hunger Initiative. She always says, you should be grateful for what you have and if you are so fortunate to have extra, share with others. Hunting is a pastime that I truly enjoy but it is not necessary to keep adding meat to the freezer when there are people who would value the addition of high quality protein to their diet.
I am in awe of the work that First Lady Gordon has done since launching Wyoming Hunger Initiative but she has held firm to the basis of this Initiative: not to reinvent the wheel. She was able to take a resource and match it with a need to create an innovative solution to hunger. Wyoming Hunger Initiative knows that hunger cannot ultimately be solved by quick fixes and instead, it is critical to create sustainable solutions that will permanently reduce hunger in our state. Food from the Field empowers hunters to do good while also contributing to strategic wildlife management and developing a sense of self-sufficiency.
Trista Ostrom is First Lady Gordon's Chief of Staff, and a Wyoming Hunger Initiative Team Member.