LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - Hunger is a growing concern in La Crosse County.
According to the La Crosse County Health Department, a household is considered "food insecure" if at least one person in that home has limited access to safe, nutritious food.
Wisconsin's overall rate of food insecurity is 11.8 percent; less than the national average of 14.3 percent, according to Health Department statistics.
But as that number continues to grow, so does the percentage of hunger in La Crosse County.
The Women, Infants and Children Program conducted a survey of their participants to measure food insecurity.
WIC promotes maintaining the health and well-being of their members. In part, WIC serves a food supplemental program. They provide vouchers to women, children and infants in need, so they can buy designated nutritious food at the store.
In 2002, the percentage of food insecure WIC households statewide was 44 percent; in La Crosse County the rate was at 48 percent.
The most recent study, conducted in 2012, shows the state rate for WIC households with food insecurity at 54 percent; 53 percent in La Crosse County.
La Crosse County Health Department Nutrition Supervisor Jennifer Loging said there are many contributing factors.
"Families, when they don't have enough money to buy food – they have money – they have to budget their money," Loging said. "They have to pay rent, they have to pay for heat, electricity, and they're just not balancing that. They may be working – it's not necessarily that they're unemployed – but their jobs may not pay real well."
Nutritious food does have a price tag often higher than what a person pays for less healthy items.
Some families even resort to skipping meals so their children can eat, Loging said.
Another way to help food insecure families is by donating healthy food to pantries in La Crosse.