Twelve-year-old Lindsey Crocker has donated cans of food to the Ashland Emergency Food Bank, but until recently, she'd never seen where the cans traveled after they left the Siskiyou School's donation bin.
On Friday, she and six of her classmates rolled up their sleeves and went to work sorting hundreds of cans at the Ashland Street food bank, all collected from the nonprofit's latest donation drive.
"I think it's really cool because we have a donation drive every year, but I've never really actually been here sorting the food and seeing people get it," Crocker said Friday.
The food drive has netted more than 2,250 pounds of food in its first month, enough to feed 150 people for about five days, according to Ann Marie Hutson, president of the food bank.
In mid-February, the nonprofit placed donation bins in Bi-Mart, Dollar Tree and all five Ashland grocery stores. Since then, generous locals have been buying extra food items to place in the bins.
"I am overwhelmed by the generosity of people living in Ashland," said Alan Cox, a food bank manager who picks up the donations. "Frequently my heart skips a beat to find a food donation bin filled to the brim on my pickup day."
The nonprofit served about 1,000 Ashland and Talent residents in both January and February, setting records for those months, Hutson said.
So the food drive was borne out of necessity, she said, as the economic crisis saddles locals with debt, snatches their jobs and stretches their resources.
Since last November, when the recession rattled Wall Street and the nation began to realize the severity of the financial crisis, the nonprofit has seen a huge increase in customers, Hutson said.
Last month, the food bank served 949 people, 30 percent more than they did in February 2008.
"It's scary!" Hutson said, adding that the nonprofit will likely serve record numbers this month too.
"So far this month we have given emergency food to 259 adults and 146 children from Ashland and Talent in an eight-day period," she said Wednesday. "It looks like our numbers served will climb even higher this month. I feel like we are waiting for the other shoe to drop with the economy on such a decline."
Hutson hopes to keep the bins in Ashland stores while the food bank continues to serve record numbers, but at least one store may require the nonprofit to remove the bins at the end of this month, she said.
However, locals can now drop off food donations — except for those packaged in breakable containers, such as glass — at all hours at the food bank, thanks to a new outdoor bin that was installed Friday.
The food bank relies on individuals and companies to donate thousands of pounds of food each month. In January, locals donated 8,432 pounds and in February they gave 9,295 pounds. In order to have enough to stock its shelves, the nonprofit also spends about $3,000 or $4,000 on food each month.
And if the recession worsens, the food bank will be ready, Hutson said.
Sorting cans at the food bank Friday gave 14-year-old Brendon Sills some perspective on how many people in Ashland are in need, he said.
"I just get a picture of how many people need to come here because they don't really have the money to get food," he said, as he lined up packages of noodles on a shelf. "I think it's so important that people can come here to get the food that they need."
"We are prepared and (are) getting more prepared, thus the new food drive in the grocery stores," she said. "We will be there for the people who will be needing food."
Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or email@example.com.