ACCESS seeks donations to help hungry people weather COVID-19 crisis
At a time when many locals stock up their own pantries and brace for uncertainty, Jackson County’s regional food bank is asking the community for help filling the shelves of the pantry used by those less fortunate.
Envelopes will begin appearing in print editions of the Mail Tribune and Ashland Tidings later this week for ACCESS’ Fight Childhood Hunger in Jackson County fundraiser, which the nonprofit’s Executive Director Pamela Norr and Development Director Kellie Battaglia say will support the nutrition programs into the summer.
The fundraiser, focused on child nutrition, hopes to raise $10,000 — which would give the organization buying power to purchase about 40,000 meals thanks to the nonprofit’s partnerships with the Oregon Food Bank and with local grocers.
In 2019, ACCESS’ nutrition program distributed more than 5.2 million pounds of food to 31,363 people — roughly a third of whom were children, according to numbers provided by Battaglia.
Norr said the nonprofit is working to keep its shelves stocked at a time of great uncertainty for the nonprofit — ranging from financial concerns to logistics caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Economic impacts of the unprecedented shutdown, business closures and event cancellations needed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 could impact the funding grants that ACCESS receives, according to Norr, although it’s too soon to say how exactly the nonprofit’s numbers will be affected.
“Everything’s just kind of on hold, and we still want to take care of the community,” Norr said.
Locals who can afford to stock up on groceries are clearing out shelves based on concerns surrounding the shutdowns and looming pandemic. The people ACCESS serves, however, aren’t in the same financial position.
“If those (store) shelves are bare ... the shelves of those we serve, they’re bare all year ‘round,” Norr said. “So it’s really hard to figure out how this is going to impact what we’re trying to accomplish here.”
“This new day that we’re facing — we’re just not sure what’s going to happen,” Norr added.
Battaglia said that even before the economic impacts of the pandemic, 1 in 6 Jackson County residents were food insecure, pointing to numbers from Oregon Food Bank’s 2019 Regional Food Bank Profiles report.
Battaglia said Access’ food bank is right across the street from the Smart Foodservice warehouse store — formerly known as Cash & Carry — and for much of the past week she’s witnessed vehicle after vehicle load up in preparation for the crisis.
“It’s a huge concern,” Battaglia said. “If you struggle with hunger, you don’t have the same luxury.”
The child hunger campaign is focused on funds for its nutrition program because they allow the nonprofit to purchase exactly the types of food that the food bank needs to keep their nutrition programs well-rounded, listing as examples high-protein foods such as peanut butter or canned fish.
“We’re just trying to make sure we’re giving food the way people need it,” Battaglia said.
The envelopes will appear in Wednesday and Thursday editions of the Mail Tribune and Ashland Tidings, and Battaglia said all funds raised through the program stay here in Jackson County.
People can also donate online at www.accesshelps.org/donate or by texting “ACCESSHELPS” TO 44-321.
Access always accepts nonperishable food donations, but during the COVID-19 crisis, the nonprofit asks those with food donations to call the main office at 541-779-6691 to verify hours prior to arriving at the pantry, and to take social distancing and health precautions while attending food pantries.