“Many people are one emergency away from food insecurity,” says First Lady of Wyoming Jennie Gordon. She has made fighting hunger in Wyoming her mission. In this installment of our November hunger Series, we discuss how Wyoming is banning the “sandwich of shame” from school lunches and responding to food needs that tripled during COVID-19.
Jennie father was a Senior Master Sergeant who served in the navy and her mother was from Austria where she survived World War II in Vienna. Jennie has nine siblings. When her husband was appointed as Wyoming Treasurer in 2012, Jennie took over management of the Merlin Ranch full time where the the ranch has garnered national recognition for its environmental stewardship and conservation achievements as well as efforts to promote the sale of Wyoming beef worldwide. Jennie became the first lady in 2019 and launched Wyoming Hunger Initiative in October 2019. This initiative works to address hunger in Wyoming, where 1 in 6 kids and 1 in 8 adults are experiencing food insecurity.
Food is security:
- Friday Food Bags given to children to bridge the 48 hours outside of school on the weekend allows a mom to work and not worry about kids having to go out to get food in a less than secure neighborhood.
- Many people are living paycheck-to-paycheck and worry about an unexpected expense driving them into food insecurity.
- People who are hungry didn’t put themselves in the position on purpose. We need to view food security as a hand-up not a hand-out.
Bringing compassion to school meals:
- Food security has to be delivered without stigma or shame.
- Many kids need support, but the parents do not qualify for free lunch.
- In the past school nurses would see 50 kids per day with tummy aches. After implementing a breakfast that is delivered to all children after the bell rings, that number is reduced 80%.
- Students shouldn’t be given a “sandwich of shame” if they have school lunch debt. They are given a full meal and an initiative helps parents pay off debt.
Farmers, ranchers, Department of Agriculture, hunters, and grocers unite:
- There is an abundance of food, but it needs to reach people.
- A partnership allows farmers and ranchers to donate food.
- Hunters can donate as well.
Three tips to overcome Food Bullying:
- Remember food is security.
- Make it a hand up – not hand out.
- How you treat the most vulnerable shows who you are.
Jennie Gordon Website: https://www.nohungerwyo.org/
Food Bullying book with Michele Payn: http://foodbullying.com
Embrace Your Heart with Eliz Greene: http://www.embraceyourheart.com/
Food Bullying Podcast’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/foodbullyingpodcast