ACCESS donations slow at critical time

With the holidays in full swing, it seems like a food drive can be found on every corner, with organizations hoping to benefit from the spirit of the season and fill up their coffers for the coming year.

Such efforts have helped food banks and assistance organizations such as ACCESS, the Medford Food Project and many others to provide assistance to low-income families during the winter months.

This year, however, donations are slowing as the need is increasing.

According to Philip Yates, ACCESS nutrition programs manager, donations through the organization's annual "Food for Hope" grocery bag drive are down considerably compared with a year ago.

But the need is far from down for more than 22,000 individuals being served by ACCESS this year. An estimated 40 percent of the food recipients are children.

As of Monday, ACCESS had collected 16,217 pounds of food, well behind its Dec. 31 target of 30,000 pounds. At the same time, the drive had brought in $11,672 in donations as of Friday, also far short of its $30,000 target.

That's worrisome to Yates, as "Food for Hope" is one of the organization's largest drives.

"The number of food drives going on have made it very difficult to donate to us," explained Yates. "We hit something like $29,000 last year and brought in over 30,000 pounds worth of food."

"I would encourage people to do as much as they can," he added. "(But) honestly, there are limits on what the local community can contribute."

ACCESS partners with local businesses, organizations and schools to organize between 100 and 150 food drives during November and December, Yates explained. The goal for this year is to collect more than 100,000 pounds of food between all the food banks by Dec. 31.

"At the end of the year, we'll look at the food drives from all over the area," he said. "If we raise over 100,000 pounds of food, we'll consider it a success."

ACCESS has 25 pantries spread across Jackson County, moving an estimated 3 million pounds of food annually to needy individuals and families.

A 40 percent cut to the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and intended to bridge the gap between food-bank supplies and demand, has placed increased pressure on local food banks at a time with double-digit unemployment.

"The number of people coming to the food bank has increased by 8 to 10 percent," said Yates, explaining that ACCESS hopes to compensate for the gap between donations and demand by setting up community gardens and working with the Oregon Food Bank Network. He added that the organization can purchase five pounds of food for each dollar donated.

Reach reporting intern Nils Holst at 541-776-4477 or email

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