Hunger Task Force of La Crosse adjusting food distribution process because of pandemic

Food bank steps up even more to help families by providing drive-up food distributions

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Feeding the hungry in our communities is an ongoing need.

Hunger Task Force leaders say nearly 25 percent of La Crosse residents live below the poverty line.

Usually, the Hunger Task Force’s job is to distribute food items to area pantries so they can stock their shelves.

But the food bank has been making some changes to its distribution process since the pandemic.

This means even busier days for those unloading and stocking trucks.

“There’s always something going on here,” warehouse manager Joe Duncan said. “Always something to do.”

Duncan has been working at the food bank for almost two years, and he says he’s never been busier.

“I get in about 16,000 steps every day,” Duncan said.

Duncan and other workers need a lot of steps these days because the Hunger Task Force is carrying more responsibility.

Executive director Shelly Fortner says some pantries have shortened hours or even closed because of COVID, so food bank workers and volunteers have been giving away food boxes themselves through drive-up distributions.

That will continue until whenever COVID may end, she said.

“It’s definitely been a changing of roles for us,” Fortner said.

More pantries are reopening, with vaccinations available and government relief programs ending.

“We’ve called this a food cliff, where all the extra things are gone now,” Fortner said. “And now it’s on the backs of food pantries, meal sites, youth programs, and the Hunger Task Force to make sure that people are getting food again.”

Despite these adjustments, the food bank’s biggest priority doesn’t change.

“The goal is to feed the community,” Fortner said. “The goal is to meet that need at whatever level it is going to be at.”

A passion that drives Duncan, no matter how much effort it takes.

“It feels great,” he said. “I love it.”

The Hunger Task Force distributed about 6 million pounds of food last year — about triple the usual amount — because the government provided extra products to food banks and pantries, Fortner said.

Fortner says with emergency programs ending, .the food bank is on track to distribute the amounts of food it usually provides.

The Hunger Task Force is always recruiting volunteers.

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