Gundersen Health System is helping to make access to healthful foods just a bit easy for people in the Coulee Region.
On Wednesday, Gundersen presented WAFER Food Pantry, the largest pantry in the La Crosse area, with a donation of $50,000, which will be used by the organization in its effort to remodel the former Gordy’s Country Market on the city’s Northside into a larger, more store-like facility.
“It will be able to expand the service they’re providing, including the experience that the users of the food pantry have,” said Sarah Havens of Gundersen’s Office of Population Health, “so it’ll be an experience more like a grocery store.”
Food insecurity, Havens said, is one of the most identified health risks in the region, as determined by Gundersen’s social determinants of health.
“Food insecurity, or concern about being able to afford healthy food, making your paycheck stretch so you have food for the month, is a concern for many of our patients, as well as the community,” Havens said, “so this is a way for us to impact health and wellbeing for those that we serve by providing support for this building project that WAFER is undergoing.”
The work on the new facility is scheduled to be complete by spring 2023. It will be a marked improvement for WAFER, which served 30,000 people last year by providing 1.6 million pounds of food, which equates to 1.5 million meals. The facility will include improved lighting, a drive-up canopy, more storage, loading docks and indoor storage for its fleet of vehicles.
Gundersen has other connections with WAFER, too, including its produce drive, where employees bring in their excess garden vegetables, which are then donated to the pantry. Those donations help round out WAFER’s full line of offerings, including meat and nonperishables. In addition, in recognition of Doctors Day, WAFER and other food pantries in Gundersen’s service area receive a small monetary donation.
According to Marilu Bintz, MD, chief population health officer, Gundersen sees this donation to WAFER as an opportunity to continue its mission of keeping the community healthy, in this case by providing food options to those who struggle to have enough.
“People’s health is impacted by what’s happening to them outside our walls,” Dr. Bintz said, “so if we can share the dollars we have to help improve the wellbeing of our community, then we can really make a difference in the lives our patients.”
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