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City of Onalaska hopes little food pantries will make a big difference in the community



In an effort to help residents struggling with hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Onalaska partnered with local elementary schools to build and install two Free Little Food Pantries.

The idea started in April when the state was in the middle of a ‘Safer At Home’ order. City Attorney Amanda Jackson said she and City Planner Katie Aspenson wanted a new way to engage the community. Jackson said the school districts had done a great job making resources and nutrition available to students at home, and they wanted to extend that help.

“The food pantries use a ‘give what you can, and take what you need,’ philosophy,” Jackson said. “We always encourage people that are able to give back to the community, and this is a small way we can do that. We would like to encourage everyone to help keep them both full.”

The pantries were built by volunteers Mike Weidemann and Jim Wing and installed at Irving Pertzsch and Northern Hills Elementary Schools.

“We felt like the school district property was a great way to make them easily accessible to the community,” Jackson said. “They are fairly walkable locations. We’re thankful that Irving Pertzsch and Northern Hills Elementary Schools were able to find accommodating and convenient locations
at their schools.”

Those wishing to donate can add non-perishable, dry goods and food in non-glass containers as well as personal care items.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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