Food and Friends isn't the only nonprofit organization scrambling for drivers to meet the needs of an aging population. Drivers and other volunteers are needed at the St. Vincent de Paul shelter and ACCESS Inc. food banks, too.

Food and Friends isn't the only nonprofit organization scrambling for drivers to meet the needs of an aging population. Drivers and other volunteers are needed at the St. Vincent de Paul shelter and ACCESS Inc. food banks, too.

Food and Friends has more than 300 volunteers, St. Vincent de Paul more than 200, and ACCESS more than 450.

But many of the volunteers are elderly and can no longer drive or do the sometimes rigorous work of collecting and distributing donations.

"I'd love to see more young people come in and join the spirit of giving," says Jane Whaley, development director for Food and Friends. Her organization provides more than 235,000 meals each year to about 4,000 recipients with fewer than nine full-time paid employees.

"That gives you the flavor of how much is done by volunteers," Whaley says.

St. Vincent de Paul needs drivers with sturdy backs to help pick up, load and unload donations for the store and food pantry for six hours on Tuesdays, said Kathy Morgan, vice-president of outreach for the Medford shelter.

"We're getting tons and tons of donations. And more and more people are shopping here," Morgan says.

A downward spiraling economy means more people are losing their jobs, facing foreclosure, becoming homeless and needing the services provided at shelters and other social services organizations, Morgan says.

"Food bank donations haven't slowed down. But we've had a huge increase in people needing our help," she says.

ACCESS has closed three food banks in recent months because spaces became unavailable or there weren't enough volunteers to staff them, says Logan Bell, ACCESS development director.

As the season for food drives approaches, the need for volunteers intensifies. Donated food items must be quality inspected and readied for recipients by hand, Bell says.

"We need space and bodies to maintain the food banks," Bell says.

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