Special delivery: Postal food drive sets record

Local postal workers' food-collecting efforts have surpassed last year's record results.

ACCESS Inc. accepted nearly 77,000 pounds of goods for Jackson County's emergency food bank following letter carriers' May 12 drive in Ashland, Central Point, Medford and White City. The same drive last year yielded 76,100 pounds of food, said Philip Yates, nutrition programs manager for ACCESS.

Approximately 140 postal workers picked up non-perishable food left beside mailboxes for the one-day drive. Letter carriers collected additional goods for a few days after the drive while other donors brought some groceries directly to ACCESS, Yates said.

Fewer postal workers participated this year than last year, said organizer Donna Sanderson. But efforts to advertise the event likely contributed to its success, she said.

"Medford was really up," Sanderson said. "We just got a really good response."

ACCESS estimated that residents of Medford, Central Point and White City contributed about 10 percent more than last year although Ashland donations were down, Yates said. In its 15th year, the drive is a nationwide event and the county's largest.

ACCESS continues to see more and more demand for emergency food boxes, Yates said. The nonprofit organization cut its food distribution by 112,667 pounds over the past 10 months compared with the same period over the previous fiscal year, Yates said.

By contrast, ACCESS increased food boxes by 1,600 during the same time, he said. Boxes, on average, are seven pounds lighter, he added.

ACCESS and other food banks have wrestled with a continued decline in the U.S. Department of Agriculture surplus commodities, which peaked in fiscal year 2000-2001.

Because agricultural prices have been strong over the past few years, the federal government has purchased less surplus food, which it passes along to food banks, said Jean Kempe-Ware, spokeswoman for the Oregon Food Bank Network.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail slemon@mailtribune.com.

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