Betty Burgess unloads 50-pound bags of potatoes Tuesday at St. Vincent de Paul in Medford. - Julia Moore

That's a lotta spuds

Local food banks were treated Tuesday to enough organic potatoes and artisan cheese to provide gourmet scalloped potatoes for half of Oregon.

Some 40,000 pounds of organic potatoes and 200 pounds of artisan cheese were distributed to a half dozen Southern Oregon locations in a joint effort between the Grange Co-op, Noonan Farms in Klamath Falls and Rogue Creamery in Central Point.

Dropping off some 6,000 pounds of potatoes at St. Vincent de Paul, Norm Rush, the Grange Co-op's Central Point store manager, said the donation is the company's annual effort to help feed community members in need.

"Our employees really got into doing a food drive a few years back and this was one more way we could help the community," Rush said.

"Next week we'll take all the food bags we've accumulated to St. Vincent's, too."

Regional food bank and shelter coordinators said this week heralds the start of the season in which many residents and organizations step up to help those struggling to feed their families.

On Sunday, the First Presbyterian Church in Central Point and St. Vincent de Paul, which serves 47,000 meals per year outside the holidays, hosted a Thanksgiving feed for 400 homeless and low-income commun ity members.

Kids Unlimited will host a meal this week for children enrolled in programs there, while St. Mark's Episcopal Church members provided bags of food for 80 families who receive services at the Family Nurturing Center and respite nursery.

ACCESS nutrition programs manager Philip Yates said many food banks decided not to offer Thanksgiving bags this year to ensure enough food can be provided for the Christmas holiday.

Yates said the number of people needing food donations has skyrocketed in the past year. In August, the agency saw its busiest month ever for food boxes, with 3,700 distributed at 25 ACCESS food pantry sites. He anticipated ACCESS will have provided some 40,000 boxes to its clients by year's end.

Yates said area food banks, which provide a safety net for families whose food stamp benefits run out mid-month or slightly later, struggle to keep up with the need.

The Salvation Army saw a 35 percent increase in need for its services over the past year, said development director Jackie Agee. The organization receives food from ACCESS and purchases its own to ensure needs are met.

As an ACCESS food pantry, the Salvation Army provides 12 boxes per family per year. But it also funds additional emergency food bags and provides dinners in Hawthorne Park on Monday and Wednesday nights.

"We're anticipating we're going to be providing 2,500 to 3,000 Christmas dinner food bags," Agee said.

"Last year, we served 1,200 families."

Yates said the best way to help local food banks is to call and ask about specific need. He suggested donating canned meats, peanut butter and side dishes such as macaroni and cheese, stuffing, soups and canned fruit and vegetables.

Yates said cash donations, which ACCESS can parlay into 5 pounds for every dollar spent, are the best way to make a bigger impact.

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Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at

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