Stepping Up to the Plate To End Hunger in Wyoming

The Wyoming Hunger Initiative enters its fifth year of fighting food insecurity through agency support, partner funding
Apr 3, 2024 10:30 AM ET
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About 86,000 Wyoming residents have trouble keeping the fridge and the pantry stocked at home.

That number is both surprising and troubling to Jennie Gordon, First Lady of Wyoming, who leads the Wyoming Hunger Initiative to address food insecurity by increasing awareness and support for the work of local anti-hunger organizations statewide.

“The prevalence of food insecurity became apparent when my husband (Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon) and I were on the campaign trail when I noticed that so many communities had pantries set up,” says the First Lady. “It was a much bigger issue throughout the state than I had realized.”

The Wyoming Hunger Initiative’s approach is simple—provide support to the existing food pantries and agencies in all 23 counties in Wyoming and the Wind River Reservation, without reinventing the wheel.

Through infrastructure grants and emergency funding, 200 anti-hunger organizations across the state are supported by the initiative, providing a funding source for a necessary gap in the fight against food insecurity.

“These organizations have their boots on the ground, and they know how to do their work the best,” says First Lady Gordon. “We’re here to maximize impact by supporting them and connecting them with partners across the state to share resources.”

The initiative, which began in 2019, is one that First Lady Gordon has particular heart and passion for, as her family’s personal experience with food insecurity brings the cause that much closer to home.

“I grew up in a big family, and although we always had enough food growing up, my parents did not have the same experience,” says First Lady Gordon. “It not only taught me to be thankful for what we had, but also motivated me to give back.”

The Wyoming Hunger Initiative falls under the umbrella of the Wyoming Governor’s Residence Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization tasked with enhancement of the Wyoming Governor’s Residence and support of the initiatives of the First Spouse.

Enbridge recently gave a $10,000 Fueling Futures grant to the Wyoming Hunger Initiative as part of our commitment to building vibrant and sustainable communities. The funding supports the initiative’s emergency fund, which allows for expedited processing and approval of grants to respond to urgent food pantry and agency requests.

“The emergency funding comes at a time when help is needed quickly, like if a fridge breaks down or if an agency receives a large supply of produce with nowhere to store it,” says the First Lady. “The grants are small but very significant—I am always amazed at what these agencies can make happen with them.”

With the initiative reaching its five-year mark, First Lady Gordon has plans to spin the initiative to an independent nonprofit and hopes to host the first ever statewide summit for agency partners in 2025.

Though the initiative audience began with a focus on children, it expanded its mandate in 2022 to all Wyoming residents.

“We know that if you have a hungry child, you have a hungry family,” says First Lady Gordon. “You probably also have a hungry senior or veteran, and these vulnerable populations need our help.”

No matter the geographic location, anyone can give where they live. The Wyoming’ Hunger Initiative encourages action in a variety of ways: by donating time, money or by simply spreading awareness.

“It’s important to realize that everybody could just be one emergency away from being that person in need,” she says.