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Food drive ends with over 68,000 pounds donated, as Hunger Task Force starts a new role

Rick Solem

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An amazing food drive came to an end last week, having seen the La Crosse community give more than anyone could have anticipated.

Food Drive Fridays’ seven-week run ended up raising 68,190 pounds of canned goods and over $250,000 for the Hunger Task Force of La Crosse food bank.

“I knew La Crosse was a great community,” Task Force executive director Shelly Fortner told the La Crosse Talk PM audience, “but everybody stepped up so much the last month or two, to just see the need and support (the) community.

“It’s been just great. I can’t thank everybody enough. I really can’t.”

After the first Friday drive saw about 15,000 pounds of food collected, each week after that consistently saw about 6,000-8,000 pounds donated.

“This is going to be so helpful for us to get through the summer and into the fall and winter months,” Fornter said. “Again, nobody really knows how long this situation will go on, how long people might be out of work or still struggling even when they’re back to work, so the pantries and meal sites should have plenty from us to keep them going for awhile.”

The Task Force provides food for 118 pantries, meal sites and youth groups in the area. It’s the only food bank between Madison and Rochester, but it is now more than just a food bank — a transition that began right after last Friday’s drive.

“We’re both the collector now and the distributor,” she said, as the Task Force has taken on the role of giving out Farmers to Families food boxes provided by the USDA. “That’ll go on for the month of June, possibly further.”

The boxes are given from 4-6 p.m. at the Task Force. The only requirement is people provide the number in their household so they know how many people it went on to help feed.

Inside the semi load full of 20 pallets with 1,600 boxes, each containing a gallon of milk, pound butter, pound cheese, a bag of apples, two bags of potatoes, a bag of oranges, a bag of onions and other surplus items from the Task Force, as well.

Another semi will come each week. Fortner said they’ll also send some pallets to Sparta, Tomah, La Crescent, Vernon County and Trempealeau County for distribution.

Helping the Task Force with Food Drive Fridays included multiple rotary groups, including Rotary Lights, iFeed, the La Crosse County Health Department, as well as countless businesses in the area providing everything from matching donations to food for the volunteers.

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM and "liberal hack" | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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