Low donations and rising need strain La Crosse area food banks, pantries

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — Inflation is driving up prices ahead of Thanksgiving dinner. Here in La Crosse and across the country, the need for food from local banks and pantries is up, but donations are down.

WAFER Food Pantry’s Executive Director Erin Waldhart says she has never seen it like this in her 17 years.

“If we weren’t here, people wouldn’t eat. There’s always going to be a segment of our population that for one reason or another, is unable to provide for basic necessities,” Waldhart said.

Waldhart sees food insecurity every day. Now, even more people are turning to food banks for help.

“I think inflation is playing a large part in the response that we’re seeing here. And we’re hearing it from people, too,” Waldhart said.

Right now, WAFER is serving around 1400-1500 families. That’s up roughly 300 from a year ago. Donations are not keeping up with demand.

“All of that combined together kind of puts us in a predicament of trying to keep our shelves full, food packages complete. We have to work a little bit harder in order to do that,” Waldhart said.

Waldhardt says help from the government is also down.

The Hunger Task Force, which helps stock 118 La Crosse area agencies, is also feeling the strain.

“As a food bank, we serve pantries, meal sites, and youth program. From the pantries we see an increase in their need—some of them are seeing double in their clients,” said Nicole Larson, a program assistant at the Hunger Task Force.

That pain is especially felt in rural communities.

“They don’t have a lot of access to grocery stores, or if they do the grocery stores are a little bit pricier. So they’re relying more on the pantries in those areas,” Larson said.

Both groups say even the smallest donation makes a difference.

For those who are able, Waldhart says picking up extras on your regular shopping trip can help.

“Inflation affects everybody, right? So going to the grocery store and picking some things out for others could be a good option,” Waldhart said,

Donation and volunteer information is available online.

You can find more information on how you can volunteer or donate to WAFER on its website, and more about The Hunger Task Force on its website.