The Seasoned Franciscan - Cooking Joyfully

A Food Pantry Challenge!

By Vicki Lopez-Kaley on Monday, March 25th 2024



If you needed food assistance, what groceries would you put in your monthly food pantry package? From the list of options provided below, choose what groceries you would use.  From your chosen fresh produce, meat, dairy, bakery, canned and dry goods items, count how many meals you would eat from those choices.   How would this package help until your budget allowed your next grocery shopping trip?  *Quantity of some items may vary, depending on guidelines and availability.

1 item each of:
fresh produce*
frozen animal protein* (meat, chicken parts, sausage)
bakery* items
1 each of the following canned items:  Fruit, Juice, Tomato Product, Beans, meat or fish
3 each canned Vegetables and Soup
1 each: Pasta, Side Dish (like Rice mix), Peanut Butter, Mac-N-Cheese, Crackers, Cereal, Beans, Rice and several Asian ingredients like: Lo Mein Noodles, Fish Sauce, Bamboo shoots.
Milk coupons, personal hygiene items and sometimes pet foods are also available.


WAFER (which began as West Avenue Food Emergency Resource) is located on the north side of La Crosse in an efficiently remodeled former grocery store building.  It allows patrons in need of food assistance to select free groceries in an atmosphere much like any food store, a feature which supports choice, efficiency and dignity.  Put yourself in a patron’s shoes and take a WAFER Video Tour of what it's like to select your own groceries.

WAFER Food Pantry Facts:

  •  Individuals and households apply to WAFER for this free assistance based on their household income and where they live.   Patrons complete “The Emergency Food Assistance Program” (TEFAP) Application from the Wisconsin State Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health.
  • Persons without a permanent address can get food from WAFER with identification.
  •  According to guidelines, a patron needs to limit their food assistance to one source:  In La Crosse, those options are: WAFER, Salvation Army, Heart of Food Pantry or River of Life Food pantry.  Smaller food pantries in the community at schools, churches and other organizations have their own guidelines.
  • WAFER also offers:  A Mobile Food Pantry that delivers food options every month to about 11 different sites throughout La Crosse County for folks who cannot get to the north side pantry location.
  • Patrons over 60 who are home bound or have difficulty getting to pantry or mobile pantry sites can make use of the monthly Senior Package Delivery program to receive items suited to their likes and needs.
  • Back-pack Food Assistance helps children who seem to have insufficient meals on the weekend or school breaks as identified by school staff. The package contains a variety of easy to prepare complete meals, snacks, breakfast items, fruits and vegetables, pudding, and shelf stable milk.  This nourishment promotes proper development and supports students to return to school on Monday ready to learn.

Other Food Pantries and/or Food Banks
Channel One pictured above, is a large regional food assistance provider.  Located in Rochester, it is part of Feeding America and like most food pantries or food shelves, provides food assistance to individuals and households in need. Channel One also is also a Food Bank which serves a network of food shelves, pantries and programs extending across 14 counties in southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. These counties include: La Crosse, Faribault, Waseca, Rice, Goodhue, Wabasha, Steele, Dodge, Olmsted, Freeborn, Mower, Fillmore, Winona, and Houston counties.

The Hunger Task Force in La Crosse is a Food Bank that supplies food to food pantries and some meal programs, as needed.  It also alleviates food insecurity by providing produce raised in the Kane Street Garden.  It supports many agencies who offer meal programs.  If you are a volunteer cooking for the Warming Center, for example, HTF offers food to alleviate your cost of making the meal for Warming Center clients.  HTF offers a Senior Stock Box program making food available to Seniors over 60 who meet the income guidelines.  Hunger Task Force can be found in other regions of the country, such as in Milwaukee, WI.

How you can help.  Both food pantries and food banks can use volunteers.  They also appreciate monetary and food donations from individuals, food stores, restaurants, wholesalers, farmers and gardeners.  Does this appeal to you, your household, friends or workplace?  Contact a food pantry, food shelf or food back for more details by clicking on their name below.

WAFER Food Pantry of La Crosse

Channel One

Hunger Task Force of La Crosse

Minnesota Food Share March Campaign  runs February 26 to April 6, 2024  and serves food pantries all over the state.

Scouting for Food Drive by La Crosse area Scouts - Saturday, April 27, 2024.   Watch for info info in your neighborhood.

National Association of Letter Carriers Annual Food Drive to "Stamp Out Hunger"  - Saturday May 11, 2024  

According to Feeding America, Food insecurity is a systemic issue that can happen to anyone, not a personal failure. People facing hunger struggle with high living costs, expensive housing, unemployment, and low-wage jobs.  Chronic health conditions, racism and discrimination may contribute to their financial strain.  Without enough food, people who experience food insecurity may have trouble concentrating, have low energy or miss school and work due to illness.  In addition, changes in our local and global food system can make availability and distribution of the world's food more equitable.  We need to learn more about how to advocate for these changes.



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