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Donate cash, not food

A community effort to collect 75,000 pounds of food for the poor in Jackson County this April has been canceled because of the coronavirus, so organizers are requesting cash donations.

“It was not an easy decision,” said Courtney Williams, director of program expansion at the Neighborhood Food Project. “We are going to forgo the in-person operation in April to respect the social distancing requirements in this state.”

She said her organization had discussed the move over the past week but decided to end the door-to-door effort in the best interests of public health.

With more families out of work during the pandemic, various organizations in Southern Oregon anticipate there will be an even stronger need for food, so the cash donations will be a lifeline for families.

“Even if every donor gave an average of $10, that would really add up,” she said.

Williams said she hopes to receive enough donations to allow the various food programs to buy items directly from commercial suppliers, rather than risking spreading the virus through door-to-door efforts.

Every two months, residents of Southern Oregon set aside non-perishable items in a green tote bag that is collected on their front porches. The food then goes to various food pantries, which distribute the items to families.

“The food is needed now,” she said.

Food-donation projects in Southern Oregon are hoping to raise enough cash to offset or surpass the amount of food collected in the door-to-door campaign.

Williams said food banks are able to buy the food at a discount, so every dollar collected counts.

Food drives in Jackson County take place in Medford, Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Eagle Point. The Medford and Ashland programs are the largest, each collecting 30,000 pounds of food. The Medford effort, which also includes in Jacksonville and Central Point, distributes the food to 15 local pantries such as The Maslow Project and St. Vincent de Paul.

Grants Pass also has a food collection program.

Donations can also be made directly to a local food project in your area by going online: https://ashlandfoodproject.com, https://medfordfoodproject.com, https://talentfoodproject.org, https://phoenixfoodproject.org, https://eaglepointfoodproject.com and http://www.gpfoodproject.com (Grants Pass).

Donations via checks can also be mailed to Neighborhood Food Project, P.O. Box 1089, Ashland, OR 97520. Donors should specify which community they’d like their money to go to. For more information on the Neighborhood Food Project go to https://neighborhoodfoodproject.org.

Williams said her organization will make a decision at a later date on whether the June door-to-door effort will continue.

Brad Galusha, chairman of the Ashland Food Project Board, said that 150 volunteers typically go around Ashland to pick up the green tote bags filled with food, so the decision not to have the community effort was a difficult one.

“This is mainly to protect our elderly volunteers,” Galusha said.

By the time the food pickup date arrives, food pantries throughout the county need to replenish their supplies.

“Typically the food bank cupboards are absolutely bare,” Galusha said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.