It's not too late to donate and make a difference. But only a few more days are left to meet ACCESS' goal of raising $30,000 and 30,000 pounds of food in its annual "Food for Hope" grocery bag drive, officials say.
So far the effort is about two-thirds of the way to its goal, with cash donations reaching $20,000 and food donations hitting about 23,000 pounds.
More than 10,000 children and seniors don't have enough to eat in Jackson County.
This year ACCESS provided more than 44,000 food boxes (a three- to five-day supply) to more than 23,000 hungry individuals.
The annual ACCESS food drives provide some of the healthiest and highest-quality food the agency receives, said Alec Schwimmer, nutrition programs coordinator.
"We're not where we want to be," Schwimmer said. "And we urge people to support the drive."
ACCESS is specifically seeking canned tuna, chicken and turkey, as well as canned fruits and vegetables. Jars of peanut butter and tomato products are in high demand too. Also needed are shampoo, toothpaste, feminine products, deodorant, toothbrushes and lotion, he said.
The donations provide a direct connection between donors and people who are hungry and cash donations keep ACCESS' freezers running and its trucks on the road, he said. A donation of $1 can provide up to five meals.
"We fed 3,000 families every month last year, 3,600 this year, and it looks like we'll be feeding 4,000 next year," Schwimmer said. "The need keeps growing."
The drives also support innovative programs that address the root causes of hunger through advocacy and public education, Schwimmer added.
Food Project volunteers in Jackson County collected more than 64,000 pounds of food earlier this month, said John Javna, project coordinator. The total collected countywide for 2012 was more than 300,000 pounds of food, he said.
"The Food Project has been extremely successful," Schwimmer said. "It's been a great resource."
The Food Project collections, however, are distributed through numerous agencies, with only a portion going to ACCESS.
The community has stepped up in other ways as well. Schwimmer praised the new Trader Joe's outlet for bringing in 1,000 pounds a week of fresh produce through the Fresh Alliance program that is connected to the Oregon Food Bank.
"Trader Joe's has been such a blessing," Schwimmer said. "We pick up daily."
Donating to local food banks has been a Trader Joe's policy for more than 30 years, said the store's spokeswoman, Alison Mochizuki.
"We do it daily," Mochizuki said, adding that the chain donated approximately 25 million pounds of food in 2010, and more than 100,000 gift baskets, to the needy.
Trader Joe's addition of fresh meat, dairy and produce, combined with regular donations from Walmart and other local grocery stores means ACCESS has been able to share some of the county's Fresh Alliance food with Josephine County, Schwimmer said.
Schwimmer said donations from Food Project and grocery stores are a great boon for ACCESS. But the need for food continues to grow as families and individuals continue to battle hunger in Southern Oregon. This burgeoning need, and the current political gridlock, is creating anxiety about what resources will be available at state and federal levels, Schwimmer said.
"We've really worked hard and reached out. But we don't know what's on the horizon," Schwimmer said.
The Food for Hope drive ends Dec. 31, and there is still time to drop off bags of canned food off at collection locations at Food 4 Less, Sherm's Thunderbird, Umpqua bank branches, local fire stations and at the ACCESS offices at 3630 Aviation Way, just west of the Medford Costco.
Cash donations may be made online at www.accesshelps.org. Click on "Donate to Hope" and note "Food for Hope" in the dedication box. Checks also may be sent to ACCESS Food for Hope, PO Box 4666, Medford, OR 97501.
For more information, contact Schwimmer at 541-774-4321.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.