HUDSON -- St. Croix Valley Food Bank has reorganized from its former operations as the John Coughlin Resource Center to better meet the needs of the area.
The food bank will be a redistribution center for four counties, providing food to35 food pantries in western Wisconsin starting in May.
The goal is to get one step closer to ending hunger in the area, Executive Director Ann Searles said.
“To do it in a way that brings the whole community together, from the farmers, from the businesses, from the community groups, from individuals,” Searles said. “And really recognizing that there is a need in western Wisconsin.”
The John Coughlin Resource Center was founded by the United Way St. Croix Valley in 2007 to meet the needs of smaller communities that could not support food pantries. Every month food pantries could pick up food, including milk, eggs, cheese, vegetables and fruit to distribute in their communities.
“What has happened is we’ve progressively grown and with the pandemic there was such a great need in western Wisconsin,” Searles said.
The organization began mobile pop-up pantries this year, distributing about 761,000 pounds of food. Many of the people who used the mobile pop-ups were using food pantries for the first time, Searles said.
The process showed just how much need was still being unmet.
The poverty level in the region warrants about 6 million pounds of food, Searles said. The Coughlin Resource Center and Second Harvest were able to distribute 3 million. Though other food distribution options exist, Searles said they're still falling short.
“So we knew that we needed to respond and provide more support to our local food banks,” she said.
So the St. Croix Valley Food Bank was created to operate as a separate nonprofit.
The bank has leased a warehouse at 1231 Industrial St. that will allow it to build a higher capacity and deliver food more efficiently. The setup process will be underway through March and April. It will be able to accept more raw food and produce from local farmers.
“It’s really about increasing our capacity, our accessibility and getting more food out, and especially healthy food, to those who struggle with hunger in our region through the food pantries and through our mobile pop-up pantry,” Searles said.
Ensuring they have the capacity is half the battle, she said, so she’s looking forward to having that in place.
The food bank is excited to have support from the community, but Searles said it does need more.
“Hunger is here,” she said. “Hunger is in western Wisconsin and our neighbors need our help.”
The St. Croix Valley Food Bank is looking for support in the form of time, treasure or talent. Those interested can:
Learn more about the bank at stcroixvalleyfoodbank.org or through Facebook, Instagram of Twitter
Give monetary donations online.
Look for volunteer opportunities including mobile pop-up pantry distribution or food packing online.