A new initiative as part of Wyoming First Lady Jennie Gordon’s Wyoming Hunger Initiative aims to allow hunters to donate game meat directly to Wyoming food banks.

Food From the Field is the newest arm of the Wyoming Hunter Initiative, which Gordon launched last fall. She said the idea was inspired by her own experiences as a hunter.

“Sometimes people love to hunt and maybe can’t use all the game meat that’s harvested and want to donate it to a food pantry,” she said.

But getting game meat to a food pantry comes with red tape, which Food From the Field is hoping to streamline. Partnerships with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming Department of Agriculture and Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies are simplifying the process.

“As far as being able to get (game meat) into the food system, there were some barriers,” Gordon said.

As the program launches next fall, hunters that bring harvested game meat to a processor can indicate whether they’d like any of their meat to be donated. Participating processors will already be under contract, with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture handling regulations and inspections. Meat will be tested for chronic wasting disease and held until test results are returned.

Meat will then be passed along to Food Bank of the Rockies, which has a distribution system to local food pantries already in place.

Gordon said program funding will pay for the cost of processing.

“If (hunters) want to pay for the processing, we are certainly not turning that down,” she said. “But if they are unable to or would like us to, we will pick up that cost.”

The Wyoming Hunger Initiative is raffling off two Wyoming Game and Fish Department Commission tags to raise money to assist with processing costs. The first raffle drawing is scheduled for 11 a.m. June 12, while the other is scheduled for noon on July 10, which is Wyoming Statehood Day. Tickets are available at nohungerwyo.org.

As part of the development of the Wyoming Hunger Initiative, Gordon visited communities around the state to gauge the needs in Wyoming and efforts already underway. She visited Laramie in early March, with stops at Feeding Laramie Valley, Laramie Soup Kitchen, University of Wyoming and Albany County School District.

“We realized very quickly there were so many people working in this field and doing great work that I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, but wanted to really be a way to support those groups, to be a spotlight for them, and network for them,” she said.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold shortly after her Laramie visit, the Wyoming Hunger Initiative had been planning to distribute grants to agencies to use for infrastructure needs such as freezers or storage. The initiative quickly pivoted to start providing emergency relief grants instead.

“We pretty quickly realized that infrastructure is great, but right away people were needing food,” Gordon said.

In April and May, the Wyoming Hunger Initiative distributed about $40,000 in all 23 Wyoming counties, based on population and poverty level. Money was distributed either by supporting Food Bank of the Rockies and its mobile food pantry or by supporting local agencies.

“We are committed to doing that through August,” she said.

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