WAFER: blessed in so many ways

12/26/2023 11:58 am

By Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Laurie Sullivan 

Since moving to the new building in May, WAFER Food Pantry in La Crosse, Wisconsin, has served an average of 1,500 households monthly, including 432 new households. Our outreach extends to 37 homebound individuals through the senior share program each month. Additionally, we’ve offered three additional produce giveaways, benefiting 530 households, even those not registered with us. Registered households can receive additional partial packages each month, with about 47 households taking advantage of this opportunity.

We are blessed to have a vibrant and active volunteer base, with an average of 127 volunteers providing about 1,780 hours of service to us each month. Since the move, there has been an increase in our unsheltered neighbors seeking food assistance. They receive similar boxes as our regular clients, with fewer frozen items, prioritizing healthy options. Additionally, we provide items to Sue Graf from What I Need Now, or WINN, to help feed the people her organization serves who are unable to come to the pantry.

WAFER supports other food pantries, including River of Life Pantry, Onalaska Food Pantry and Holmen Pantry, by providing additional produce and meats. Our mobile pantry travels to 12 sites throughout La Crosse County, serving those unable to drive to the pantry. Once a month, food is provided to the Bangor School District as part of the Backpack program for children. The program provides foods children typically like and can easily make themselves.

With the new building, we’ve expanded educational classes, including “Cooking with Sweet Potatoes,” “Shopping on a Budget,” “Cooking Asian and Traditional Hmong Foods,” and “Cooking with Fall Fruits and Vegetables.” With assistance from the FoodWise Extension office, low-impact exercise classes are offered on Monday and Wednesday through December. 

The Viterbo University nutrition students have offered samples and recipes using items from the pantry. Some of the recipes included caprese salad, cottage cheese dill dip and black bean alfredo pizza using Italian bread as the crust. The FoodWise Extension office made samples and recipes of sweet potato pudding.

WAFER is collaborating with the Coulee Region Montessori teachers in providing service opportunities for five sixth- graders throughout the school year. The young people bring great energy and enthusiasm to each task, from repackaging eggs, repackaging cookie dough and compacting boxes. The young people continue to ask for more days than they are assigned.

WAFER was selected as one of five agencies in the United States to be part of a project titled “On Your Way to Preventing Diabetes.” The purpose is to provide access to diabetic tools and resources from CDC to rural areas with instances of high diabetes and low broadband access. We were chosen because we are trusted in the community.  WAFER’s role will be to recruit and screen participants, disseminate resources, support the participants with incentives, food prep assistance and physical activities. This begins in January of 2024.
We are blessed by many wonderful organizations and individuals who support us not only financially, but also by providing volunteers, food or hygiene products.

Sister Laurie Sullivan joined WAFER in June 2023 and serves as Operations Manager. Feeling called by God to do pantry work, Sister Laurie has a great passion for addressing food insecurity, both at the ground level and through systemic change. Sister Laurie credits those she has worked with and those she has served in pantries in Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin for fueling that passion. She has worked in various positions in a variety of non-profit organizations and brings those experiences to WAFER.


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