Long before becoming First Lady, I learned from a friend in Sheridan County about children who struggled with food insecurity. I later discovered that one in six children in Wyoming struggle with finding their next meal. While we were traveling the state on the campaign t rail, I visited with several communities about their greatest needs and hunger always rose to the top. I never forgot those children and have since made it a priority to work towards a future where hunger no longer exists in our state.
I spent the greater part of 2019 traveling the state and learning from organizations that are on the ground doing the work. I visited The Food Group in Sheridan, Food for Thought in Casper, Blessings in a Backpack in Gillette, the Moose Lodge in Laramie, the Friday Food Bag Foundation in Cheyenne and several other locations around the state that are doing the good work. I also partnered with Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies at their mobile food pantry in Gillette after so many miners lost their jobs. Lastly, I joined a task force that includes a team of people from across the state and the Department of Education to work towards implementing Breakfast After the Bell in classrooms in Wyoming. I felt it was necessary to learn from Wyomingites across the state and find a way to spotlight their efforts rather than reinvent the wheel. Awareness is such a large part of making sure the state is on the same page about this issue. In October, I launched the Wyoming Hunger Initiative which will work to prevent food insecurity by increasing awareness and support for the work of local anti-hunger organizations statewide and by advocating for a future where no child faces the school day on an empty stomach. There are grassroots efforts in every Wyoming county dedicated to reducing childhood hunger and combating food insecurity. The Wyoming Hunger Initiative will highlight the work of these organizations and strive to provide much needed support. There is always pushback with any program which is why I have made it a priority to understand the organizations that are operating around the state and the varying complications that come with those efforts. When I met the food service director in Laramie County School District #1, she explained a rationale to me that not only makes sense but is something that we can all get on board with. We provide transportation for our children to get to school. We provide books, electricity, teachers and other resources. Why aren’t we providing our students with meals to jump start their day? Although Breakfast After the Bell is just one piece of the mission, we need to start investing in our children as they are our next generation of leaders. Nourished kids, healthy families and thriving communities is the goal of the Wyoming Hunger Initiative. Jennie Gordon, First Lady of Wyoming