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Snowy Star Valley: a Behind-the-Scenes Look

This month some Wyoming Hunger Initiative team members traveled to Star Valley for a filming/interviewing trip related to an upcoming program video about Food from the Field. It was very snowy but rest assured, all safety precautions were taken and no vehicle went off the road in the making of this blog post. We wanted to introduce you to some of the friendly anti-hunger warriors we visited along the way!

downtown Washington St., Afton
Picturesque Afton, Wyoming looking especially welcoming at night
Wyoming Hunger Initiative team
Project team in a snow globe! Jesse Hassler, Elizabeth Dillow, Trista Ostrom, and Willie Fowler

Our trip began at Afton Food Pantry, where director Sierra Mitchell and board member Violet Sanderson were preparing for the weekly Thursday distribution of food to local community members in need. Snow and cold does not deter their mission—which they put us to work helping with after our second stop next door... interview father-daughter hunting duo Travis and Clanci Osmond. We're awfully excited to share their enthusiasm for spending time together, hunting, and serving their community. A special thanks to Timberline Taxidermy & Antler Decor for allowing us to invade their space with lights, stands, and cameras to conduct this interview!

Back at the Afton Food Pantry, we jumped in to help pack food bags. Sierra has the operation down to a science, serving 30+ families on this particular snowy evening with efficiency, grace, and a smile for every single car that came through the COVID-protocol distribution line. Sierra and Violet were checking with each family that came through to see if they'd like to receive game meat donated through Food from the Field. The overwhelmingly positive response we witnessed was just icing on the cake to see the benefits of this program in action. Sierra's excitement in having high-quality, local protein to share was moving.

packing food bags at Afton Food Pantry
Cars lined up in the snow for food distribution
Afton Food Pantry has this down to a science, even in the snow.

Next stop: a visit to Wyoming Hunger Initiative's Food from the Field partner processor, Star Valley Meat Block in Thayne! It might only take a handful of minutes to travel from Afton to Thayne in the summer, but we made it through the white-out... a little slower than that. One noticeable difference between snow in Afton and snow in Cheyenne is the direction it falls, and we were all impressed by the beauty of the straight-down snowfall.

Tylee Williams
Tylee Williams, Star Valley Meat Block owner

Tylee Williams and her husband Grant Williams have been tremendous partners over Food from the Field's first year, and we were thrilled to squeeze into her busy schedule for a chance to capture her story on camera. After interviewing her in a tight space in the front of The Block (sorry, customers who came in and got a little surprise you weren't bargaining for first thing in the morning!) we toured the facility and met the team who keep The Block running at capacity year round. Tylee and Grant did not know anything about the world of meat processing when they purchased the business from the retiring owner a few years ago, but you would never know it. Tylee has performed every single job and is committed to a thorough understanding of all facets of the business. It shows!

In addition to processing game for Food from the Field, The Block has also processed beef donated through Food from the Farm + Ranch. Over and over again, we heard about the partnerships and relationships that make this type of cooperation possible. It was truly inspiring.

Our next stop took us to the Afton Civic Center to meet Shelley Balls, the Cent$ible Nutrition Program Educator in Lincoln County. Bonus—while setting up, we got a peek at the beautiful CallAir Museum tucked inside. If you're ever in Afton, add it to your list!

Shelley Balls, Cent$ible Nutrition Program
Shelley Balls, Cent$ible Nutrition Program

After her interview, Shelley took us on a very snowy tour of the geodome made possible through more partnerships. The Afton Cent$ible Nutrition Program received an infrastructure grant from Wyoming Hunger Initiative in 2020, and it was fun to hear about how that equipment will further the mission and effectiveness of food grown here. The Afton Food Pantry is a big beneficiary of produce from the geodome, of course!

When we said there was a lot of snow, we weren't kidding. Thanks, Willie!

Cent$ible Nutrition Program geodome, Afton, WY
Shelley, giving us a tour and explanation of how the geodome works

We made one more very impactful stop—no photos this time—to The Turning Point, a domestic violence shelter in Afton, yet another beneficiary of Food from the Field game and a partner of the Afton Food Pantry. This stop only further solidified for everyone how much a program like Food from the Field is making a positive impact on a community, and it introduced to us a consideration we hadn't thought of: distressed families have access to the donated game to prepare a home-cooked meal in the shelter's beautiful home kitchen, and that provides a level of comfort that allows them to relax just a little. It's one more way Wyoming is caring for its own.

The drive home took this team on an even snowier adventure up to Jackson and back down again to Cheyenne since I-80 wasn't the safest option. No Tetons to be seen, but we were rewarded with a herd of bison instead. It was the perfect highlight to a trip filled with highlights of service, collaboration, and stories of Wyoming community members going above and beyond to make a difference. Thanks for the hospitality, Star Valley! We like to think we blended in to the community perfectly.

Jesse, blending in while patiently waiting for an amazing meal at 225 BBQ in Thayne
There's a road there somewhere, promise!


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