Local groups hope to break poverty, obesity link

The Hunger Task Force of La Crosse hosts mindful eating forum

Feeding hungry mouths with nourishing food, that was the goal of this year’s Hunger Task Force of La Crosse Forum. On Wednesday, more than 50 community groups came together to discuss how to turn donated food into healthy meals for local low-income people.

Rod Tisthammer, a volunteer with the Come for Supper program knows how to stretch a buck.

“We serve anywhere from 175 to 250 people on any given Tuesday and I can feed that many people for as little as $50,” Tisthammer said.

He and other volunteers from Our Saviors Church always try to provide the best available.

“We just don’t give a salad or soup, or hotdogs or chips, which is a major pet peeve of mine, we would never do that, we look for something that is nutritious,” Tisthammer said.

Tisthammer and leaders of other local food and pantry program discussed ways to make food even more nutritious and improve the overall health of La Crosse’s hungry.

“Sometimes you are going to see people who are low-income and they are overweight and obese and that doesn’t make any sense because it’s not necessarily that they are getting too much food to eat,” Shelly Fortner the executive director of the Hunger Task Force, “It’s what they are putting into their bodies.”

There are two major ways they are trying to change that. First they are asking for healthier donations.

“If  you’re looking at donating a canned soup, that’s wonderful, it’s a meal for a family, but look at the low- sodium, and donate that,” Fortner said.

Second, educate low-income families on ways to put a healthy spin on the food they get.

“Mac and cheese can be healthy but you have to stretch that out, you are going to have to get that sodium content stretched out, so add some broccoli and some fresh ground turkey,” Fortner said.

Our Saviors Church is taking that concept a step further by hosting cooking classes.

“It teaches people how to incorporate produce into their menu, cause there are a lot of people that don’t know what to do with produce,” Tisthammer said.

At the forum there was a lot of discussion on how to get healthy food for cheap. Nurses and dieticians said that just because junk food seems cheaper it is actually ends up costing more in the long run, because fills you up less and can contribute to costly health problems down the road.

If you’d like to donate food to the Hunger Task Force of La Crosse accepts donations Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.