Hunger Task Force considers long-term plan to help community with growing need for assistance

The local organization is fundraising for current and future needs as the pandemic goes on

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)– As people are out of work and their kids need more meals, the need for food assistance continues to grow. While people are donating money and extra food now, food banks are starting to consider how long that can go on for.

Over the last few weeks, food pantries have seen a surge in new families who never needed assistance, according to the Hunger Task Force. The food bank serves free food to 91 food pantries, meal sites and youth programs in La Crosse County alone.

“We need to just keep meeting that demand and it is going up,” said Shelly Fortner, executive director for the Hunger Task Force of La Crosse.

They started Food Drive Friday to make up for an annual drive that was postponed. Stamp Out Hunger was scheduled for May 9, 2020, but is going to be rescheduled to later in the year.

“Our goal is to stock the local shelves for the Hunger Task Force and all those pantries that they serve,” said Marissa Dickinson, a planning team member for iFeed and member of Rotary After Hours.

In addition to other community groups, it made sense to partner with organizations like Rotary Lights and iFeed, which help feed the hungry through annual events toward the end of the year.

“But now more than ever, our community needs our help,” Dickinson said.

So far, the event has been successful– bringing in more than 15,000 pounds of food and upwards of $70,000 at its kickoff event.

“We live in a terrific community and they always come through,” Fortner said.

“The La Crosse community is so unique in that sense,” Dickinson said.

But there’s a lot of uncertainty with how the pandemic might impact our area– either with a growing demand for help or changes in donations.

“We’re taking it day by day, week by week,” Fortner said.

They’re trying to gather as much financial support and canned goods as they can right now. What they collect now is not just for the immediate need but for the months to come.

“We’re not sure how long they will last but we want to make sure that we are being able to gather enough or have enough financial resources to purchase items if the need goes on throughout the summer and fall,” Fortner said.

There are five more food drives planned. If they need to have more, they will. Dickinson said her group will continue to check in with the Hunger Task Force and other area food providers as time goes on.

“If the need is there, we’re here to help,” Dickinson said.

Meanwhile, the Hunger Task Force will keep looking for help locally and statewide.

“It’s our job at the Hunger Task Force to make sure that we have food for people in need. So we will do what it takes,” Fortner said.

“Food Drive Fridays” will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Friday through the end of May 2020. Drop-off locations include:

  • Onalaska area: Valley View Mall parking lot (by formers Macy’s location), 3800 Hwy 16, La Crosse
  • Downtown La Crosse: La Crosse County Parking lot behind the Courthouse & Law Enforcement Center, 333 Vine St., La Crosse
  • Southside La Crosse: Big Lots parking lot located at 3960 Mormon Coulee Rd., La Crosse