Food insecurity rising in La Crosse County

LA CROSSE COUNTY, Wis. - More and more people in the La Crosse area are struggling to find enough food to eat.

It's called being "food insecure".

According to the Wisconsin Women, Infants and Children Nutrition program or the WIC program 53 percent of people in La Crosse County have food insecurities.

That's up about 5 percent from a decade ago.

For one struggling working mother, doing whatever she can to make sure her kids get enough to eat is her top priority.

La Crosse single mother of two Lorie Henkel does the best she can to take care of her kids.

"I keep it as normal as I can for my kids because they shouldn't have to worry or stress over where stuff's coming from," said Henkel.


Both of her children have special needs, and living on a fixed income, Henkle said she can't always afford everything 3-year old Alma and her older brother 6-year old David need.

That includes food.

"I mean, some nights you literally sit there and you cry because you don't know what to do next, and it gets really hard because those are my children," said Henkel.

She gets by with help from food stamps and food pantries in the area as well as the Wisconsin WIC program, but Henkel said sometimes that isn't enough.

"I think my kids are still hungry," said Henkel. "Sometimes I just leave the last for them. I mean, it's all about taking care of them."

While the new report shows more than half of the La Crosse County population has food insecurities, that number is 1 percent lower than the state rate, but the numbers are growing.

La Crosse County Nutrition Supervisor Jennifer Loging said many things are behind the increase including the cold weather.

"The time of year, winter, can be more difficult because of electricity, (and) heating costs," said Loging. "Families have rent to pay, families have utilities, cars, car insurance, car repairs. There's just a lot of different expenses that families have, so sometimes food is cut."

The program currently helps about 2,200 people in the county.

Loging said she doesn't see the program going away anytime soon, and Henkel said she's thankful for that.

"It's just me and my kids," said Henkel. "Every day is a struggle, but somehow we manage to make it because there are some good resources in La Crosse. You just have to look for them."

Henkel is planning to go back to school this fall. She said working towards a college degree while supporting two children will be tough, but it will help her better provide for her kids in the future.

For more information on how to apply to the Wisconsin WIC program, head to the La Crosse County Website.

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