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Fill an envelope to help fill the hungry

Envelopes inserted into today's Mail Tribune mark the kickoff to an annual donation drive that organizers hope will bolster the coffers of the region's biggest food provider.

It's a recurring reality for ACCESS: Donations drop during the same time each year, even as the need rises for people who rely on area food pantries.

With local schools set to let out for summer, students who receive free lunches are more likely to go without needed sustenance, said Logan Bell, ACCESS development manager. Increased demand and a sluggish time of year for donations make for empty bellies and stressed families.

"We have a lot of need this time of year, and donations tend to be a little lower. We send the envelopes out as a very simple ask, stating why we need this money and what it will be used for and how far it goes," Bell said.

"This time of year, things get really, really tight for families in need. Schools are about to be out and a lot of the resources they're used to having available during the school year aren't going to be available. We have a lot of families that go camping just because that's what they can afford."

While the agency is always happy to receive food donations, Bell pointed out that the agency's myriad resources help them stretch every dollar donated much farther than the average donor can manage in picking up some basic items at a local grocery store.

"For every dollar donated, we are able to create four meals or buy 5 pounds of food," Bell noted.

"That's pretty impressive, if you think about it ..., tell me where else you can take a dollar and buy 5 pounds of food or take a dollar and create four meals?"

Bell said, in addition to careful spending, the agency capitalizes on donations and can barter to ensure variety for needy families. For example, large amounts of donated potatoes from Klamath Falls are swapped with donations of Rogue Valley pears to ensure families served by different agencies receive both.

Neediest recipients are low-income families and seniors of restricted income.

"A lot of people may be on food stamps and run out before the end of the month and they'll have a week or a week and a half where they have to figure out how to make ends meet," said Bell, noting that some 350-400 seniors each month receive a 40-pound emergency food box.

"Most of the seniors we help, they're living on Social Security and they're lucky if they make $700 to $800 each month. These are the reasons we exist. There are just so many gaps all over the place."

See today's Mail Tribune for donation envelopes. Donations of checks or money orders can be sent to P.O. Box 4666, Medford, OR 97501. Donations can be delivered in person — money or food — to ACCESS offices at 3630 Aviation Way in Medford. Credit card donations can be made by phone, 541-774-4323.

For more information on the donation drive, contact Bell by email at lbell@accesshelps.org.

— Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.