High food and fuel costs continue to trigger increased need for food donations in Jackson County, officials say.

High food and fuel costs continue to trigger increased need for food donations in Jackson County, officials say.

"We need your help during the holidays and throughout the year in responding to local food drives or donating homegrown produce from your garden to hungry families," said Philip Yates, nutrition programs director for ACCESS. "We can only prevent hunger by working together."

ACCESS Food Share's annual statistics, released today in tandem with results from the Oregon Food Bank's biennial Hunger Factors Assessment Survey of food-box recipients, shows 1,150 more emergency food boxes were distributed in Jackson County, an increase of three percent from 2006-07 figures.

"Local donations account for over 60 percent of the food we distribute and we wouldn't be able to feed families in need across Jackson County without the help of this community," Yates said.

Demand has increased five percent statewide, according to survey assessments.

The increase in emergency food boxes has been relatively slow compared to previous years. But donations of food have declined substantially. Federal USDA commodities subsidies are down 30 percent, and Food Rescue/Fresh Alliance donations are down 18 percent, said Rachel Bristol, executive director and CEO of Oregon Food Bank in a statement to ACCESS.

The 2008 Hunger Factors Assessment Survey findings show families statewide continue to face inadequate incomes and job benefits to cope in emergencies and an insufficient public support system. A weakened economy and rising prices for basic necessities only adds to their burdens.

For example, the cost of bread has increased 26 percent, milk is up 24 percent, eggs are up 55 percent, and the cost of gas is up by 37 percent. The combined cost increases for food, fuel, health care and housing are the leading reasons more people seek emergency food, the survey results showed.

The survey also showed that households with children are the largest group receiving emergency food.

"For children, hunger isn't only uncomfortable, it's dangerous," said Bristol. "Hunger jeopardizes a child's health, development and future productivity."

To find out more about how to help, call 774-4320.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.