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Food for Hope hopes for late boost

Lower than expected donations for the annual ACCESS "Food for Hope" drive have coordinators scrambling to reach out to community members to help ensure food pantry shelves don't go bare before springtime.

ACCESS Nutrition Programs Director Philip Yates said the program's donations have previously provided roughly one-fourth of the food and cash donations to maintain needed food supplies for more than 50 agencies that depend on ACCESS.

Yates said this year's donations are far short of the goals, prompting concern over the organization's ability to meet the post-holiday needs of low-income community members.

"Usually, things dip down and then finally kick back in a couple weeks before Christmas but they're still very slow at this point so we would like to try to see if people could help with some additional donations," Yates said.

"We had a goal of food and cash donations from Food for Hope — 30,000 pounds of food and $40,000 cash. So far, we've had 8,000 pounds of food and about $9,000 in cash, well short of what we were looking at needing."

Yates said his agency was currently providing some 75,000 pounds of food each week to more than four dozen social service agencies around Jackson County, 24 of which provide emergency food boxes.

While food and cash donations are both needed, monetary contributions can stretch a long way toward filling people's shelves. ACCESS can provide 5 pounds of food for every dollar donated.

Yates said Friday that area food pantries had not seen a reduction in food provided by ACCESS so far, despite the lower-than-usual donation levels.

"We have not yet had to adjust what we're sending yet. If we cut back at all it's going to be those who are providing supplemental help with our priority being those 24 emergency food panties," Yates said, noting that the effort was helped when the local Olsrud family, which owns Food4Less and Thunderbird, delivered a truckload of food on Friday.

"We're not shorting anyone yet," he said. "A truckload of food from Sherm's came in today, which will help tremendously. Certainly, we're looking towards January, as one of the biggest months where families need help. Often, lower-income families have tried to make a really good Christmas for their kids, so often January is a month where they'll need additional help."

Cash donations can be sent to ACCESS Food for Hope, P.O. Box 4666, Medford OR 97501 or through a secure online connection at https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/foodforhope.

Food bags can be dropped off at the Mail Tribune, ACCESS, any fire station in Jackson County, all Umpqua Bank locations, Sherm’s Thunderbird and Food 4 Less, and several Medford churches: Ascension Lutheran, Medford Congregational, St. Paul’s Lutheran and Westminster Presbyterian.

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