Food Bank Supply Dwindles, Need Rises

Article excerpt

Byline: Susan Palmer The Register-Guard

FOOD for Lane County's cupboards need replenishing: The food bank is down from its normal six-week supply of food to a two-week supply.

While local donors have been generous - providing more food and cash donations so far compared with last year - the food bank got less from the Oregon Food Bank and the federal government.

"It's just within the last month that it has been this low, but we've been working up to it for several months now," spokeswoman Dana Turell said Tuesday.

While Turell expects state and federal support to pick up later this year, the current downturn comes at a bad time when need has exploded at some of the rural pantries served by the food bank.

Junction City experienced a 40 percent jump in demand in the last quarter from July through September compared with a year ago. Cottage Grove recorded a 32 percent increase and Oakridge had an 11 percent increase.

Dexter, Florence and Triangle Lake food pantries also had more people coming through their doors.

Community Sharing, the Cottage Grove food pantry, has boosted the number of boxes it gives out from 250 a week to about 400, Executive Director Nancy Gline said.

Gline sees more people in lower-paying jobs needing help with food as well as seasonal workers and homeless people who have spent the summer camping but have moved into apartments for the winter and are spending their limited money on rent and utilities.

"There's a lot more people having to access food boxes than ever before," she said.

Complicating matters: FOOD for Lane County received less canned and dry goods that have a long shelf life and more perishable produce that the smaller rural agencies have a difficult time handling, Turell said.

Last quarter, the Oregon Food Bank sent Lane County 40,000 pounds of "salvage" food - canned and dry goods collected from retailers throughout the state. That was about half what the state agency sent a year ago.

Part of that decline can be attributed to a shift in donations by Safeway. While the national food chain supplies the statewide food network with about 7 million pounds of food a year, last May it redirected some of the salvage to a Portland nonprofit agency that serves the needy and was in dire straits, Safeway spokeswoman Bridget Flanagan said.

The Oregon Food Bank made up that loss by acquiring and distributing more bulk produce, but that presented a problem in Lane County, Turell said. …