The ACCESS goal of raising $30,000 and 30,000 pounds of food in its annual Food For Hope drive is in danger of falling short — way short.
With 10 days to go, it's only about halfway to those numbers.
The cold fact is that the economy is only very slowly getting up off the canvas after the knockout blow delivered almost five years ago, says Philip Yates, ACCESS nutrition programs coordinator. That means the agency expects to see 3,900 families visit its local food pantries for at least two months next year.
To meet the demand, he hopes valley residents will step up and give during the remaining days of the year, even though many are focused on their own holiday efforts, including buying presents for their families.
The holiday season actually exacerbates the problem for many, who try to provide presents even when they are financially struggling. That makes January one of the hardest-hit months for ACCESS pantries — 3,700 families sought food boxes in January a year ago.
"Everyone, even low-income families, are trying to give their families a good Christmas," said Yates, "and that makes January more difficult. But I have a lot of belief in this community. People have always stepped forward and helped us reach the goal."
As of the close of business Thursday, ACCESS had received $16,000 and 16,703 pounds of food, with six weeks of the drive gone and only a week-and-a-half remaining.
"I'm not sure if it's the economy or if it's that there's a lot of need out there, but I tend to think it's the high level of need," Yates said.
Yates was heartened that the local Food Project collected a record 32 tons of food from seven valley communities in December.
The project shares a portion of its collection with ACCESS pantries, but the Food Project will not be donating any more, he notes, until its next bimonthly pickup in February.
The 28th annual Food for Hope Drive, is sponsored by Sherm's Thunderbird, the Southern Oregon Media Group and the Mail Tribune.
"It may seem impossible to double our donations with so little time left, but the Southern Oregon community is known for generosity," Yates said in a statement. "With most Christmas shopping done, this is an opportunity to help people in need with any extra tax-deductible donations you can make. Just one bag of food or a few dollars can go a long way for someone who is hungry."
The donation of one dollar can be leveraged into five meals through bulk purchases and federal and state programs. People can make a secure financial donation at www.accesshelps.org. Click on the "Donate to Hope" button and then enter HOPE in the box for "on behalf of." Checks can be mailed to ACCESS Food for Hope, 3630 Aviation Way, Medford, OR 97504.
For those who donate food, ACCESS seeks high-protein items such as peanut butter, canned tuna, canned meat and beans. Nonperishable items, such as rice, pasta, cold and hot cereals also are needed.
Filled grocery bags of non-perishable foods can be dropped off at all fire stations and Umpqua Bank locations in Jackson County. Medford drop spots include: the Mail Tribune lobby, 111 N. Fir St.; Food 4 Less, 2230 Biddle Road; Sherm's Thunderbird Market, 2347 Jacksonville Highway; Ascension Lutheran Church, 2617 Barnett Road; First Christian Church, 1900 Crater Lake Ave.; Medford Congregational United Church of Christ, 1801 E. Jackson St.; St. Peter's Lutheran Church, 1020 E. Main St; and Westminster Presbyterian Church, 2000 Oakwood Drive.
In 2011, ACCESS distributed emergency food boxes to 112,697 individuals, an 11 percent increase over 2010. It gave out 42,093 emergency food boxes to families, up 7 percent over 2010.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.