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Food bank raising funds to enlarge the larder

Because demand for the Ashland Emergency Food Bank is growing steadily — it just went over 700 households served per month, its highest ever — it is mounting a fundraising drive to construct a new storage building behind its present store on Clover Lane.

The door-to-door “green bag” campaign of the Ashland Food Project, a main source of nonperishable food, brings in a whopping 28,000 pounds every two months, and, says AEFB board President George Kramer, it fills their storage rooms and shelves as high as volunteers can safely stack them.

The new unit, designed gratis by Kistler + Small + White, an architecture and planning firm based in Ashland, will be 16 by 25 feet (400 square feet), some 25 percent larger than the present room, and will have higher (10 foot) ceiling. It will go where a lilac garden now sits (the garden will be transplanted).

The fund drive will also pay for a new truck and forklift, enabling transport and lifting of larger quantities of food which are donated regularly from providers, including Harry & David, Maranatha Nut Butters, Amy’s Kitchen, Safeway, Shop’n Kart, Ashland Food Co-op, the Food Angels and others.

AEFB gets some $11,000 in regular monthly donations — no government grants — and will use the new truck and fork lift to buy up to $6,000 a month in discounted items — milk, canned food, rice, cereal, fresh fruit and vegetables — at commercial wholesale houses, such as Sysco, says Kramer, adding “the demand is big enough, we have to buy in larger quantities.”

It’s a misconception to think of AEFB as being for the homeless or transients, as they account for only 18 percent. Figuring 2.5 people per household at 700 households, some 1,750 people are served, he notes.

“Many of our clients work, some live in cars, most are single parent families, students and seniors,” says Kramer. “I guarantee you know someone who came here in the last month. They’re just hiding their financial difficulties. The huge preponderance of children we serve are your neighbors.”

August, the height of wildfire smoke, was a record-breaking month for AEFB, Kramer figures lost hours and tips from the restaurant industry was driving some of that demand.

The Food Bank, now in its 45th year, is “Ashland community at its best,” with some 100 volunteers — 60 outside and 40 inside — busily unloading, sorting and shelving picked-up food one Saturday in every even-numbered month. Volunteers come from everywhere — the high school football team, university, church groups and the general community.

“We hope to bring in enough food that the Food Bank absolutely needs more storage space,” said Brad Galusha, chairman of the Ashland Food Project Steering Committee. “They never have enough food and will always be buying addition goods. Right now, over 30 percent of Ashland households are donors to the Food Project.”

About the new storage building, Ray Hatcher, Food Bank Operations Manager says, “If they build it, we will fill it.”

Any resident of Ashland or Talent may come and get a three-day box of food every month. You need only demonstrate that you live there. No proof of income is needed.

To donate to the fund drive, see ashlandefb.org — and note that it’s for the building fund. It’s tax-deductible.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Volunteers process thousands of pounds of food Saturday at the Ashland Emergency Food Bank. (Photo by Denise Baratta)
Shelves are restocked Saturday at the Ashland Emergency Food Bank. (Photo by Denise Baratta)