Hungry for the holidays

The need for food assistance is with us all year; please help with annual drive

We write this editorial every year, and every year the Rogue Valley community responds to the reality of hunger in our midst. This year is no different, except that the need is, if anything, greater than ever because of the slow recovery from the Great Recession.

From July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, the 24 pantries in the ACCESS network distributed 42,093 emergency food boxes to families — a 7 percent increase over the previous year. An estimated 10,000 residents every month ate meals from emergency food boxes during the same period. In all, ACCESS distributed more than 2.9 million pounds of food to over 40 local partner agencies.

For the annual Food for Hope drive, co-sponsored by the Mail Tribune, food bags were inserted into the newspaper the Monday before Thanksgiving, printed with locations where food can be dropped off. If you didn't save your bag, don't worry. Any grocery bag or cardboard box will do.

The valley's 24 food pantries need nonperishable food such as cereals, peanut butter, canned meat, pasta, canned vegetables or fruit and hygiene products such as shampoo and toothpaste. Filled bags may be dropped off at any fire station, Sherm's Thunderbird, Umpqua Bank branch, Food 4 Less or any of the following churches: Ascension Lutheran, Medford Congregational, St. Paul's Lutheran and Westminster Presbyterian.

For food safety reasons, ACCESS cannot accept rusty or unlabeled cans, perishable items, homemade items, noncommercial canned or packaged items, alcoholic beverages, mixes or soda or open or used items. If you donate products packaged in glass, please box or bag them separately and label the box or bag "GLASS" on all sides.

Too busy to fill a bag and deliver it? We have great news. Your cash is just as valuable as food.

Money pays the electric bill to keep freezers cold and puts gas in the trucks that move food from collection points to food pantries.

What's more, ACCESS can purchase 5 pounds of food for every dollar donated.

To make a cash donation, mail a check to ACCESS, P.O. Box 4666, Medford, OR 97501. Donations may be dropped off at 3630 Aviation Way, Medford, or you may make a credit card donation by phone. Call 541-774-4323.

Finally, the need for food is not tied to the holiday season, although we may be more aware of it at a traditional time of abundance. Big donations during the holidays do help stock pantry shelves, but hunger lasts all year, and so does the need for emergency food assistance.

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