With Thanksgiving in the rear-view mirror, the holiday shopping season is off and running — and so is the holiday giving season. Just as retailers are hoping for an increase in customers this year, local social service agencies' top wish is for a boost in donations to help those who are struggling through the recession.

With Thanksgiving in the rear-view mirror, the holiday shopping season is off and running — and so is the holiday giving season. Just as retailers are hoping for an increase in customers this year, local social service agencies' top wish is for a boost in donations to help those who are struggling through the recession.

The annual ACCESS grocery-bag food drive, "Sharing Food is Sharing Hope," kicked off Monday with the help of the Mail Tribune and Ashland Daily Tidings.

A grocery bag was included in each newspaper Monday.

The idea is to fill the bag with nonperishable food and drop it off at any fire station, Sherm's Food 4 Less or Thunderbird, or any Umpqua Bank branch. Five Medford churches also are collecting food bags: Ascension Lutheran, Medford Congregational, St. Peter's Lutheran, Westminster Presbyterian and First Christian.

It's traditional to think of those less fortunate during the holidays, but local food pantries depend on a surge of holiday donations to keep their shelves stocked all year long. Hunger doesn't observe holidays.

And hunger is real, especially now, with many families struggling through foreclosures and unemployment in a sour economy.

As we noted in this space last week, Oregon ranks third in the nation for the percentage of households with very low food security, meaning at least one member of the household had a reduced food intake or eating patterns that were disrupted because the household lacked money for food. Those households rely on ACCESS's network of 22 food pantries to help them get through the month with enough nutrition. ACCESS serves 3,200 families every month.

If you don't have the bag that came with your newspaper, feel free to use your own. Fill it with nonperishable food, and be sure to include plenty of protein: peanut butter, tuna, canned meats. Other needed items include cold and hot cereals, pasta and canned soup, vegetables and fruits. Hygiene items also are welcome, such as shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes.

Too busy to shop? Send a check. Every dollar contributed will buy 5 pounds of high-quality, nutritious food. Cash donations also help keep trucks on the road and utility bills paid.

If your holidays look bright this year, and you're thankful for what you have, consider sharing with those who have less. Spread the holiday spirit to those in need.

For more information about ACCESS Inc. and the many ways it helps the community, visit www.access-inc.org.

Correction

The Oregonian editorial reprinted in Saturday's paper incorrectly stated that the Oregon State Hospital project would be the first new mental hospital in 127 years. Dammasch State Hospital operated in Wilsonville from 1961-1995.