ACCESS officials are sending out a final plea for groceries to help the hungry as the Food for Hope drive comes to a close Saturday.

ACCESS officials are sending out a final plea for groceries to help the hungry as the Food for Hope drive comes to a close Saturday.

"Any push to help us reach our final goal of $30,000 in fundraising dollars and 30,000 pounds of food would be welcomed," said Glory Cooper, Nutrition Programs Coordinator.

"So far we have raised $23,508 in cash donations, and 24,827 pounds of food," Cooper said.

With a new report announcing Oregon is second hungriest state in the nation, the Mail Tribune has teamed up with ACCESS to help get food to the hungry, said Cooper.

Locally, ACCESS Food Share provides food for more than 3,600 families each month, and that number continues to rise as the economy forces more people to seek assistance, Cooper said.

In Jackson County, the number of people seeking food support increased by more than 7 percent during the last fiscal year, and 37 percent of those ACCESS is helping to feed are children, she said.

As one of ACCESS' largest food and fund drives, the success of the Food for Hope campaign is important to help address the increased need for food that takes place every January, Cooper said.

Food for Hope will help ACCESS meet this increased need as well as help us keep the pantry shelves stocked in the early part of 2012, she said.

Each dollar donated allows ACCESS to provide five meals — or approximately 5 pounds of food — for local residents experiencing hunger, Cooper said.

For those wishing to donate food, Cooper says items rich in protein are needed, including peanut butter, canned tuna, canned meat and beans. However, donations of any nonperishable food items, such as rice, pasta and cold and hot cereals, always are a big help.

Mail Tribune readers received a grocery bag in the Nov. 28 issues of the Mail Tribune and Ashland Daily Tidings, which can be filled up with nutritious food or donations to help the hungry.

"People think they need to have that (specific) brown grocery bag. But that's not correct. Any bag will work," she said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.