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La Crosse’s WAFER is much more than a food pantry

WAFER Food Pantry brings food to our community but also education in nutrition, budgeting, food safety, and more.

Tracy Ballzer

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WAFER is the largest food pantry serving the La Crosse area, but it is so much more than that. It offers nutrition programming, a mobile pantry, senior package delivery, and of course its pantry on the Causeway.

They have been doing outdoor distribution and recently added curbside registration and pick up.

WAFER executive director Erin Waldhart spoke with Mike Hayes on WIZM’s La Crosse Talk about their services and how the community can help. One thing you may not know is that WAFER offers nutrition education.

“We have some great community partners like UW Extension, our local healthcare facilities, Viterbo dietetics to offer nutrition education at no cost to our patrons,” Waldhart said. “What’s really great is not only do they learn how to stretch their food dollars, use what we have and eat healthier, but they also receive a related tool so that they can go home and implement their new skills.”

Classes are currently held over Zoom but they hope to be back to in-person soon because it’s easier for attendees to remained engaged, and they really enjoy the samples.

“They go over some recipes, the educators take the food that we have in the pantry and make a meal out of it,” Waldhart said. “They show them how to prepare it so it’s not just the ingredients and talking through the directions but it’s also how do you cut an onion, how do you be safe with that, food safety”

WAFER has been running a series on food budgeting. Last week it held a session on how to make the most of your food dollars, focusing on how low to get a meal price and still be eating good for us food. Attendees received a casserole dish so that they can make more at one time and freeze into smaller portions so that cooking doesn’t have to be such a chore.

“The emphasis of this of this program really is just to get people to eat more produce,” Waldhart said. “We know that folks that have limited income and are food insecure tend to have more health issues than somebody that isn’t in that position and so we’re trying to give these skills so that not only is it affecting your, your wallet, but it has the potential to increase your health as well.

“What we’ve discovered is we can have all the wonderful food in the world, but if people don’t know how to use it and they don’t have the tools to do so, it’s pointless. And what we found out is a lot of people just don’t have the right tools. I mean, we’re talking about basics like measuring cups, spoons, a spatula, even a can opener. Some of the education is geared towards limited facilities like you only have a hot plate or you’ll may have a microwave or you have a plug in skillet, and so it’s trying to adapt the different situations that people are living in.”

You can find more information on these and other programs at their website, Facebook, or by calling WAFER at 608-782-6003.

If you’re able to help volunteer, you can call or email WAFER at [email protected]

CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO WAFER

Tracy has worked at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 2004. She is half of the Z93 Morning Buzz with Brittany and Ballzer and coordinates Z93's charity, Zcare. She writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse and announces for the Mississippi Valley Mayhem Roller Derby team.

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