WORLAND – Wyoming first lady Jennie Gordon came up to Worland from Cheyenne as a part of her Wyoming Hunger Initiative, and volunteered to help sign-in residents from the area seeking support and food through an unprecedented pandemic that has struck the country and impacted Wyoming residents.
The Wyoming Hunger Initiative was started by Gordon in October of 2019 to help address childhood hunger issues in the Cowboy State. However, with the recent rise of coronavirus the goal of the initiative has since expanded to address hunger problems that are facing the entire state with targeting primarily elderly and youth within the state.
The mobile food pantry that came to Worland on March 31 was brought in through the Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies, which helped supply the food that was given to residents in need, as 500 meals were planned to be distributed through the event at the fairgrounds.
“It went really well, there was just a tiny bit of food left that went to the pantry,” Gordon said. “I think it went really well, people were so kind, I know they waited a long time but everybody was cheerful and grateful when they got there.”
After growing up in a large family, Gordon has remembered to always help others after her parents instilled in her the values to help those in need, after her parents had both grown up in poverty and taught Gordon and her nine brothers and sisters to help anybody in need, and to always be grateful for what you have and to share if you are fortunate enough to have extra.
After taking office in 2018 with her husband Governor Mark Gordon, Jennie Gordon set out to help address hunger in Wyoming, which she began to realize was a larger problem than many knew back in 2015 after she ran into a friend who was purchasing food to help distribute to youth in need.
“I knew that I wanted to work on hunger, more specifically childhood hunger, but with the COVID-19 pandemic it has turned into helping feed families,” Gordon said.
With a large amount of Wyoming residents losing their jobs as a result of small businesses closing down due to the coronavirus, securing food just to provide for families has become a struggle for hundreds of families around the state, as cars lined up and down the Washakie County Fairgrounds and 15 Mile Road to receive the aid that was provided.
Gordon decided to help in whatever way they wanted for the mobile food pantry – greeting residents as they came through and helping to gather information about their situation at this present time.
With the sudden impact of COVID-19 still being worked through, Gordon had to place a few projects for her initial Wyoming Hunger Initiative on the backburner until the situation is resolved.
One such project is the “Food from the Field,” which would introduce the ability for game meat to be donated to pantries. There is currently no program that allows for game meat to be donated. It was hoped to be rolled out this upcoming fall.
“Often times people want to donate their game meat if they come here to hunt and do not want it all or it is too expensive to ship,” Gordon said. “We have been working with the Department of Agriculture and the Wyoming Game and Fish, and will continue to work on instituting this by this fall but if we are unable to this year we will try for next year.”
One major project that Gordon wants to work on is to work with schools to possibly introduce a 50:50 co-pay in order to reduce the amount of school lunch debt, but is just in the beginning stages and is not as far along as the Food from the Field project.
Gordon has noticed in the early stages that there are just some children throughout the state who fall through the cracks and do not qualify for free school meals, and have a difficult time keeping up with payments. Gordon hopes to address school lunches once things settle down.
Gordon would also like to encourage Wyoming residents about the 2-1-1 hotline for all COVID-19 related questions which is available Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to address any social service need and help direct residents with issues or questions to a proper agency.
Gordon would like to thank her COVID-19 task force as well as all of local law enforcement and volunteers that came out to help during the mobile pantry that helped keep the event organized.
The next mobile pantry is set to come to the Washakie County Fairgrounds on Saturday, April 25, with a schedule of other events being able to be found at the Food Bank of the Rockies website.