How One Organization is Fighting Hunger in Farm Country
Hunger Despite being a hub in America’s farmland, the city of Milwaukee is one of the hardest hit by the hunger crisis. But the Hunger Task Force is working to change that.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is located in the heart of America’s dairyland. The city and metropolitan area are surrounded by agriculture and farmland as far as the eye can see.
“Yet, Milwaukee is the second poorest city in the nation. We have a 43 percent child poverty rate and that is completely unacceptable. Every month, over 35,000 people visit local food pantries in Milwaukee,” says Sherrie Tussler, Executive Director of Hunger Task Force. For over 40 years, Hunger Task Force has served as Milwaukee’s anti-hunger leader, with a steadfast mission to end hunger.
A force for good
Founded in 1974 by a group of advocates, Hunger Task Force is Wisconsin’s anti-hunger leader. This leadership includes establishing the Fondy Food Center, one of the cities’ largest open air farmer’s markets; creating the first self-service welfare office; operating a 208-acre farm specifically to feed the hungry; and establishing a grocery store on wheels to improve access to affordable fresh foods in neighborhoods of high need.
“Every month, over 35,000 people visit local food pantries in Milwaukee.”
Hunger Task Force operates a food bank that delivers nearly 10 million pounds of food to local pantries and soup kitchens annually—every pound is healthy and provided absolutely free of charge. This free-and-local model distinguishes Hunger Task Force from traditional food banks. “We value healthy eating and work to assure that the foods we distribute are of high quality. For us, it’s about compassion and justice,” says Tussler.
Hunger Task Force partners with numerous local donors—individuals, corporations, foundations and organizations. “Food donations and donor dollars help us keep our food bank stocked with nutritious food. Wisconsinites are generous when it comes to meeting basic needs,” says Tussler.
One signature partnership includes the Touchdowns for Charity program with Sargento Foods, a family-owned company based in Wisconsin. Each time the Green Bay Packers score a touchdown, Sargento donates to two food charities, including $1,000 to Hunger Task Force. Over the past 13 years, this program has raised over $1.1 million to provide families with wholesome food.
But, according to Tussler, delivering emergency food is not the long-term answer—ending hunger requires strong public policy work and innovation.
“Hunger Task Force is unique because we work to strengthen the reach of federal nutrition programs like school meals and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” says Tussler. When these programs are well run and fully enrolled, families have dignified alternatives to reliance on food pantries.
“Hunger Task Force is an innovator,” says Tussler, “Increasing access to fresh foods, replacing canned goods with grown food and educating people about the value of good food are strategies our team employs to make a difference in Milwaukee.”