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Time and donations running short on ACCESS food drive

The year-end rush is on to help ACCESS and its partners provide food to the Rogue Valley's needy families.

ACCESS, which manages local food pantries and other programs for low-income families, remains far short of its Food for Hope objective of 30,000 pounds of food and $40,000 cash. 

With assistance organizations seeking to offer healthier, fresher farm and garden produce for its clients, the need for cash is particularly acute, said Alec Schwimmer, ACCESS' nutrition programs coordinator

"It's more challenging financially as we look to move our food assistance programs toward healthy foods, and not just shelf staples," Schwimmer said. "As we seek more and more perishable, healthy food and vegetables, we're looking to raise more money than if we were simply using shelf staples."

In essence, cash contributions give the organization flexibility in channeling resources to particular needs, ACCESS Executive Director Philip Yates said. But, even with that push toward healthy perishables, Yates said,  there remains a need for canned foods, including canned tuna and meats, as well as rice.

"What I emphasize is if people buy food is to buy protein items, whether fresh or perishable, because protein is very important," Yates said. "We still need a balanced food box, because many of the families have yet to gain skills for cooking with basics, so we need to meet them where they are."

The annual Food for Hope campaign, running a week before Thanksgiving through Dec. 31, is a key component in securing ample food for distribution.

Schwimmer said as of Christmas Eve the organization had received $12,000, or 30 percent of its goal, in monetary donations and just under 14,000 pounds, or 45 percent, of its food objective. All of the campaign's donations go toward providing more than 40,000 emergency food boxes, which have a five- to seven-day supply of food.

Yates said ACCESS-supported nutrition programs take in 20 to 25 percent of their annual cash donations during the Food for Hope campaign, and a lesser percentage of its annual food donations. 

"It's typical for a lot of agencies to receive such a large percentage now," Yates said, "because this is the time for giving and a lot of agencies want to make sure the opportunity is out there."

Some years are slower than others, and expanding households have added to the need locally.

"The dollars are important because it gives us versatility to get the products we need," Yates said. "It allows us more freedom in that respect. We've always been able to deliver five pounds for one dollar."

Tax deductible 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 at 3630 Aviation Way, Medford, 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.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Greg Stiles at gstiles@mailtribune.com.