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Community Hunger Solutions leadership identified an issue: Not all partners' patronage statistics matched the demographics of their immediate area. Disparities match those found in access to health related services in the larger population. For example, one pantry reported 97-99% of patrons as white while the population in their immediate are was 5-7% BIPOC. In searching for more information, CHS found none. However, leadership made connections with other organizations and establishments also looking for more information and the idea for the Southwest Wisconsin Food Equity Project was born.

Community Hunger Solutions worked with community organizations, local educators, concerned citizens, pantry partners, and busiensses in the local food economy to identify the problem and begin to develop a framework for finding a solution. During the process, CHS identified several partners that were more successful at reaching underserved individuals. Our program learned some creative ways that community partners were already addressing issues with access to needed health services. CHS built partnerships with Food Wise Vernon County, La Crosse YMCA, and Scenic Bluffs Community Health Center Cashton. A well defined plan was developed. 


Phase 1: Focus groups meant to gather information and build relationships. Focus groups would consist of low income BIPOC individuals and, among them, folks who also have lived experience with disability, domestic violence in the home, living as a single caregiver, and other indicators of relatively poor health outcomes (the people closest to the problem). Questions would seek to understand if and how folks gained access to food and their overall satisfaction with the kinds and quantities of food they were able to obtain.

Phase 2: From these focus groups, CHS would develop a new kind of Board of Directors. This Board would consist of individuals with lived experience in food insecurity. Participants in the focus groups would be invited to contribute more information if interested. Those who express interest 


CHS applied for grant funding through UW Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

CHS passed the first phase of the application process and was invited to further clarify some aspects of our proposal in the second phase. The project was ultimately not funded through this extremely competetive grant program, but the proposal gained extremely positive feedback.

Community Hunger Solutions and partner Food Wise Vernon County continued to build partnerships and further define and refine the Food Equity Project. Separate from our efforts, UW Extension Food Wise Wisconsin developed an information gathering project similar to the frist phase of the FEP. Focus groups were being held in rural areas with relatively high populations of Latinx individuals. Food Wise Vernon County was key in bringing this information gathering effort to nearby Ontario, in Monroe County. Information from these 

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