Sarah Bressler, farm manager at the Hunger Task Force Farm, in Franklin, Wis., harvests carrots in one of its hoop houses on March 1, 2022. Hunger Task Force leases the 208-acre farm from Milwaukee County Parks and provides fresh fruits and vegetables for free to children, families and seniors throughout Milwaukee. It distributes the produce to food pantries, homeless shelters, low-income senior living sites and soup kitchens. (Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch)
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Beyond Hunger, a new series by Wisconsin Watch produced by University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism students, will launch on July 21 with an evaluation of how pandemic-related programs alleviated a lot of hunger — and what it means for Wisconsin now that those support systems are fading.

An estimated 1 in 12 Wisconsinites are food insecure, meaning they are uncertain where their food is coming from, or can’t afford to get all the food they need. When the pandemic shook the economy, it offered a look into how bolstered food assistance programs could make a measurable difference for people struggling to put food on the table. 

A UW-Madison investigative journalism class led by Wisconsin Watch’s Managing Editor Dee J. Hall examined the history and current state of food security in Wisconsin. The series examines:

  • Lessons learned from the pandemic and how it could shape the future of fighting hunger; 
  • The history of food assistance in the United States and how its greatest innovations are tied to times of crisis; 
  • The successes of the free school meals experiment that provided food to all students; 
  • The debates over how nutritious school meals are or should be; 
  • Programs that provide access to groceries for the 10% of Wisconsin’s population that lives in  food deserts; 
  • How one Wisconsin nonprofit is pioneering an innovative but pricey solution to food deserts with mobile grocery markets;
  • A look at Wisconsin’s efforts to use locally produced food to address hunger; and
  • The hurdles and controversies surrounding programs that seek to reduce food waste while combating food insecurity. 

The UW-Madison journalism students who collaborated on this project include: Lauryn Azu, Maddie Bergstrom, Rachel Clark, Erin Gretzinger, Charlie Hildebrand, Maiah O’Rourke, Joey Prestley, Lydia Slattery, Joe States, Riley Sumner and Sam Watson.  


The nonprofit Wisconsin Watch collaborates with WPR, PBS Wisconsin, other news media and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by Wisconsin Watch do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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Erin Gretzinger joined Wisconsin Watch as a reporting intern in May 2022. She is a journalism and French major at UW-Madison and will graduate in spring 2023. Erin previously worked for the Wisconsin State Journal as a reporting intern and served as the 2021-22 editor-in-chief at The Badger Herald. She is a recipient of the Jon Wolman Scholarship, the Sigrid Schultz Scholarship and the Joseph Sicherman Award Fund for her academic and reporting work.