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Brighten the holidays with food, cash donations

The grocery bag in your Sunday paper is there for a reason: It’s time again for ACCESS Inc.’s annual Food for Hope drive, cosponsored by Rosebud Media.

The idea is simple: Take the bag, fill it with nonperishable food items and drop it off at ACCESS, Food 4 Less, Sherm’s Thunderbird or Umpqua Bank locations by the end of December.

The food goes to stock the shelves of ACCESS’s network of local food pantries, to help families struggling to make ends meet during the holidays and all year long.

Pressed for time? No problem. Cash donations are just as welcome, if not more. Because ACCESS can use its bulk buying power to obtain groceries from local vendors and qualify for discount prices through the Oregon Food Bank, every dollar buys four meals. If all you can spare is $5, that’s 20 meals for our less fortunate neighbors.

Cash donations also help with the cost of fuel for trucks to distribute food supplies, and paying power bills to keep the lights on and refrigerators humming. Coastal Farm & Ranch is matching up to $1,000 in cash donations.

The need increases every year, and rising costs also affect those seeking help and those providing assistance. Hunger in Oregon grew during the pandemic, according to a food sufficiency survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in late February.

In Jackson County, ACCESS fed over 40,000 residents through its food pantries last year. Many were children:

61% of students in county schools qualify for free or reduced lunch. Many others were seniors, accounting for 20% of those fed by ACCESS.

This year is the 38th Food for Hope drive, and organizers have set a goal of 10,000 pounds of food and $30,000 in cash donations.

The drive happens at holiday time, but hunger does not follow the calendar. The need is year-round. Food and money donated now will keep food banks stocked and pantries operating long after the Christmas tree has come down and the holiday lights have been packed away.

Help at this time is also crucial because supply-chain disruptions are affecting food shipments, and food stores are short of workers. That translates into higher food prices.

So remember those in the community who are hurting as the temperature drops. Fill those bags, make a cash donation online at accesshelps.org/foodforhope or send a check to ACCESS, P.O. Box 4666, Medford, OR 97501.