In 1996, the La Crosse County Health Department conducted a survey to determine the number of households in the county where food did not meet the needs of the family. This survey demonstrated significant gaps in food availability to the needy.
The hunger problem in the area was addressed, including the fact that this issue seemed to be well hidden from the public. It was determined there were too few places where the hungry could get meals or food packages. There were occasional food drives – usually during the holidays – but nothing was coordinated and the sponsors of these drives were not sure where to send the food once it was collected. A more formal organization was needed: The Hunger Task Force was formed.
FOOD AND NUTRITION INFORMATION EXCHANGE
In February, 1998, The Hunger Task Force sponsored its first event with a Food and Nutrition Exchange at the First Congregational Church in La Crosse. Twenty One organizations came to compare notes and exchange information on what they were doing to combat hunger. This meeting established The Hunger Task Force as a liaison linking hunger organizations to one another to eliminate hunger.
KANE STREET COMMUNITY GARDEN BECOMES HTF’S FIRST ON-GOING PROGRAM
The newly organized Hunger Task Force of La Crosse determined a community garden sounded appealing as the county had recently examined the eating habits of low income individuals and found they did not eat enough fruits and vegetables - partly because of the expense. A garden could not only provide food for those who needed it, but provide the vegetables that were missing from many diets.
It was decided that a garden site needed to be within the city and near bus transportation. The City of La Crosse owned 2 vacant blocks of land on the north side at Kane and Hagar Street and was paying to keep these empty lots mowed during the summer: the City Council was willing to lease the land to HTF with the agreement that it be kept maintained. The Kane Street Garden was born!
Like all gardens, the garden production has varied over the years with the changes in the growing seasons, but the goal is to provide about 30,000 pounds of produce for the community.
FOOD RECOVERY PROGRAM BECOMES A MAJOR INITIATIVE OF THE HUNGER TASK FORCE
The idea of preventing safe, wholesome food from going to waste was a concern. A leased truck began picking up food from distributors and other donors to distribute around the community. By 2002, the Food Recovery Program (originally named Three Rivers Harvest) was serving 19 area meal sites and food pantries.
Today, The Hunger Task Force is serving 61 meal sites and food pantries in La Crosse, Vernon, Trempealeau and Monroe Counties. In 2012, over 863,000 pounds of food was "recovered" and distributed to these recipient agencies.
Garden-corner of Kane St. and St. Cloud
(anytime Mon-Sat. starting at 9am)
The Hunger Task Force is a partner agency with Great Rivers United Way
The Kane Street Community Garden
The Hunger Task Force of La Crosse operates the Community Garden at the corner of Kane and Mc Cloud Streets on the North Side. (North of Menards) The garden was established in 1998 on city-owned property and began with producing 5000 lbs. Today, the garden produces tens of thousands of pounds of produce each year which is distributed to people needing food assistance. Volunteers and the community are also invited to take home free, fresh produce! Daily volunteers prepare, plant, maintain, and harvest the fruits and vegetables beginning in Mid-March. YOU are essential in making the garden successful.
Every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday during the harvest season, which begins in June, volunteers assist in picking vegetables which are then distributed on site to individuals. If you would like to contribute your time, click here for more information.
"This was my first summer helping at the Community Garden...I had a very positive experience. I look forward to coming back next summer...I LOVED all the wonderful produce I was able to bring home. What a blessing!"
Click on pictures for larger photos.
The Food Recovery Program
The Food Recovery Program began in 2000 to safely "recover" nutritious perishable and non-perishable foods for distribution to agencies in the Coulee Region. We now serve 61 programs in La Crosse, Monroe, Trempeleau and Vernon Counties. We do not serve individuals, but rather are the "umbrella" organization that helps the hunger agencies serve individuals by providing them surplus food items.
To see our recipient agencies:
Make your tax-deductible donation to
1240 Clinton St.
La Crosse, WI 54603