Oregon Food Bank and Wal-Mart on Wednesday announced a new partnership to get food to more hungry Oregonians.

Oregon Food Bank and Wal-Mart on Wednesday announced a new partnership to get food to more hungry Oregonians.

From the shelves of all Wal-Mart's 16 Supercenters in Oregon and two in southwest Washington, donations of nutritious produce, deli meat, beef, chicken, dairy products and other groceries will move through the Oregon Food Bank Network to the tables of people in need.

The announcement comes on the heels of a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey released this week showing Oregon jumped from No. 19 (in 2002-04) to 15 (in 2005-07) in the ranking of states for food insecurity.

The USDA defines food insecurity using an 18-item survey of thousands of U.S. households that asks adults about decisions they made in the past year regarding putting food on the table for their families and themselves.

Oregon also moved from No. 18 to No. 3 in the "very low food security" category, a term that is used when people cannot put food on the table at least part of the time during the past year.

The Wal-Mart Foundation also announced a $275,000 donation of cash and food to the Oregon Food Bank. The Food Bank will use the funds to acquire and distribute more food to meet the dramatic surge in requests for emergency assistance. The grant also will help fund a truck driver and truck maintenance to transport food from Wal-Mart stores to the participating regional food banks in the Oregon Food Bank Network, including Josephine County Food Bank in Grants Pass and ACCESS Food Share in Medford.

Food bank managers said layoffs, foreclosures and other economic disruptions are taking a terrible toll. Almost half of the state's food banks report that distribution of emergency food boxes has reached record levels.

First quarter reports of the OFB Network show that food-box distribution has increased more than 40 percent in some food banks in Southern Oregon, said Philip Yates, nutrition programs manager for ACCESS.

"We had more requests last year than we've ever had," said Yates.

The Wal-Mart donation will be used to purchase bulk items which will be repacked and redistributed to local food banks, Yates said.

In January, the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Eagle Point will join with area Fresh Alliance partners, Fred Meyer, Albertsons and Ray's Food Place stores, and offer donations of produce, deli meat, beef, chicken, dairy and other groceries to the Oregon Food Bank Network.

Yates said he expects the Superstore to donate "somewhere close to 40,000 to 50,000 pounds of new food" to the Fresh Alliance program.

In addition, Wal-Mart announced it will host an in-store food drive in April. Details will be announced in the spring.

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