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Time to feast, and to help others in need

As Rogue Valley residents prepare to give thanks around the dinner table on Thursday, it's a good time to reflect on those in our community who struggle to keep food on their tables all year long. ACCESS Food for Hope, nonprofit agency's biggest food drive of the year, kicked off Monday with grocery bags included in every copy of that day's Mail Tribune.

The idea is to fill that bag with nonperishable food items and drop it off at one of many collection sites, including the Mail Tribune, Umpqua Bank branches, fire stations, Sherm's Thunderbird and Food 4 Less and several churches. But you don't have to use that bag — any grocery bag or box will do. You don't even have to give food. Money works just as well and, in some ways, even better.

ACCESS can't use food to pay the bill for the electricity to run its freezers, or put fuel in the trucks that collect food and distribute it to 24 food pantries around the valley. After the bills are covered, money can also buy more food. Every dollar buys about four meals.

The food will provide vital nutrition to families living below 185 percent of the poverty line — $44,862.50 for  a family of four. Alec Schwimmer, ACCESS nutrition programs coordinator, says a growing number of the agency's clients are working, but not making enough to get by because of unexpected medical bills or other difficulties. They make too much to qualify for governmental assistance, but still need help keeping food on the table.

ACCESS' goal for the annual Food for Hope drive is 30,000 pounds of food and $40,000 in financial contributions. You can donate on the food drive's secure website, https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/foodforhope.

So fill that bag, or make that donation. You'll be glad you did.