Slow going for ACCESS holiday food drive

The annual ACCESS Inc. holiday Food for Hope drive is feeling the pangs of a slow economy, with food donations nearly 5,000 pounds below the donations of a year ago.

Cash donations also were down, but were closer to the 2008 totals at this point in the campaign.

Through Sunday, the campaign had brought in 16,085 pounds of food, down from 21,430 pounds a year ago.

Cash donations so far have totaled $11,641, down from $12,063 in 2008.

Gary Miller, executive director of ACCESS, said that while the donations have dropped off, the demand has not.

Particularly concerning to the ACCESS staff, he said, are the numbers of children who are receiving food through his agency's pantries.

"Thirty-eight percent of the need is for children," he said. "That's what's really driving us here to do as well as we possibly can and also driving the people who are coordinating the drives."

With high unemployment and more families in financial tight spots, "demand just keeps increasing," he said.

"For the people coming to us, it's just the basics of putting food on the table," Miller said.

The annual food drive, now in its 26th year, is co-sponsored by Sherm's Thunderbird Markets and the Mail Tribune.

Its goal for the 2009 drive, which runs through the end of December, is to raise 30,000 pounds of food and $37,000 in cash.

Each dollar donated to ACCESS can be used to purchase approximately 5 pounds of food.

Food bags may be dropped off at any fire station in Jackson County, any branch of Umpqua Bank, Sherm's Thunderbird Market, Food 4 Less or any of the following Medford churches: Ascension Lutheran Church, First Christian Church, Medford Congregational Church, St. Peter's Lutheran Church and Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Food or cash donations also may be dropped off at ACCESS, 3630 Aviation Way (just west of Costco).

Donations may be mailed to ACCESS Food for Hope, P.O. Box 4666, Medford, OR 97501, and online donations may be made by going to www.access-inc.org and clicking on "Donate" in the left-hand column.

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