The difference between food banks and food pantries


La Crosse, Wis. (WXOW) – As the holidays approach the need for food reaches a yearly high, making organizations such as food banks and food pantries vital to the health of the community.

WAFER is the largest food pantry serving La Crosse and the surrounding communities.

The Hunger Task Force of La Crosse (HTF) is the area’s only free and local food bank.

“What a food bank does is it distributes food to organizations that feed the hungry, and we are serving 102 different programs,” HTF Executive Director Shelly Fortner describes.

On the other hand, food pantries like WAFER provide food to people. They work with a Feeding America food bank out of Rochester, Minnesota called Channel One.

Executive Director for WAFER Erin Waldhart says they have a unique relationship compared to other pantries. 

“Only because of where we are situated, of course in Wisconsin, but then also among all these wonderful retailers that we have that have established partnerships and relationships with Feeding America,” Waldhart explains.

Able to collect resources from those local partners and quickly distribute items to the people they serve. While HTF and WAFER don’t work together, they aim to fulfill the same mission.

“We are in different lanes headed for the same direction. We are both working to really tackle the issue of food and security and hunger in our area, it’s just that we are going about it in different ways,” Waldhart adds.

Fortner says about 50 percent of Coulee Region students are on free or reduced lunch. WAFER’s ability to not rely on the Hunger Task Force frees up resources for other pantries in need.

“We need healthy kids in school, we need kids that can learn and not be hungry at the same time. So we are serving some of the school pantries as well,” Fortner finishes.

WAFER and the Hunger Task Force accept donations throughout the year. While food items are always appreciated, both organizations have the ability to stretch the impact of monetary donations.

MORE: Hunger Task Force of La Crosse

WAFER Food Pantry



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