La Crosse food bank reflects on 20 years of need - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

La Crosse food bank reflects on 20 years of need

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW) -

The Hunger Task Force of La Crosse celebrates 20 years in the community this year. Founded back in 1998, the organization became the area's only local and free food bank. Since then the group has continued to grow.

Pallets of food fill the warehouse, ready to head out the door.

"Our food bank went from serving three food pantries to now 101 pantries and programs in six counties," Executive Director Shelly Fortner said.

One such program being the Salvation Army, which say their food programs wouldn't be going without the task force.

"Serving three meals a day, 365 days a year wouldn't be possible," Development Director Nick Ragner said. "Doing what we do in the food pantry wouldn't be possible"

In fact in 2017, the task force collected 1.5 million pounds of food to distribute. Fortner says they don't just distribute food, they also advocate for low income families directly to the government.

"To try and get more effective food programs, more effective education, so we're not just giving a hand out," she explained.

Allowing those families to move out of poverty. It also gives families a safety plan when the paycheck's don't stretch as far as they once did.

"We're telling them that there's someone in the community that's there for them, right?" Ragner said. "We're trying to inspire them and give them hope there's a better tomorrow."

Fortner loves her jobs, but hopes one day the growth of the task force stops.

"My wish is there would be no more need," Fortner elaborated. "So in the next 20 years I'm hoping that we have a community that is taking care of itself. That we've passed some regulations that give people a liveable wage and we're not going to be as needed as we are now."

Until then, the food bank will continue to send food out to stock the shelves of panties and area residents. 

The Hunger Task Force says they're in need of volunteers to help at the warehouse and community garden. If you'd like to volunteer, you can visit the their website to see volunteering opportunities.

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