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Food needs: Demand skyrockets

More than two dozen Oregon State University dining services staff members sorted bags of groceries donated by customers at area Safeway stores Thursday afternoon at the Linn Benton Food Share warehouse. (David Patton/Democrat-Herald)

Things aren’t getting better for poor people in Linn and Benton counties — especially in terms of food needs, according to Mike Gibson, director of Linn Benton Food Share.

The demand for food in the mid-valley is the worst Gibson has seen in his 28 years with the program, which operates under the umbrella of the Community Services Consortium. Individual and business donors, as well as the Oregon Food Bank, have stepped up to help meet the increasing demand, he said.

“From July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, we saw an 11 percent increase in the number of people coming in for food boxes,” Gibson said. “In the first four months of our current fiscal year, that’s up by 19 percent.”

“It’s definitely the worst I’ve seen things in terms of need,” Gibson said. “Fortunately, we have had tremendous community support.”

Gibson said the program works with 74 member agencies in the two counties that distributed 47,000 food boxes last year — 5.4 million pounds, up nearly 500,000 pounds from the previous year.

“Those boxes fed about 165,000 people,” Gibson said.

Local soup kitchens and shelters served 269,881 meals last fiscal year.

Annette Hobbs has been the director of FISH of Albany for 23 years and echoes Gibson’s sentiments.

“It’s definitely a banner year in terms of need,” Hobbs said. “We average about 365 families and the last two months, we’ve helped up to 435 families.”

Hobbs said that’s about 1,200 to 1,400 people per month.

“We have quite a bit of food thanks to holiday giving and the Christmas Storybook Land donations,” Hobbs said, and added: “We can always use cash donations.”

Lebanon families have been especially hard-hit, according to Sharon Follingstad, treasurer of FISH of Lebanon.

“We can always use tuna and peanut butter, things that provide protein when we don’t have enough meat to give out,” Follingstad said. “Right now, we’re low on cereals and we’re always low on diapers.”

Follingstad said the program helps 40 families twice weekly on Tuesday and Friday, but there is a growing list. People must call ahead at 541-259-3200 on each of those days to qualify for one of 40 boxes, Follingstad said.

“We try to provide enough food for three days based on individual family size,” Follingstad said.

The Sweet Home Gleaners are in a rebuilding phase and donations are needed to replenish a bare cupboard, said new coordinator Lisa Pye.

“We were closed for about 30 days and reopened the end of November,” Pye said. “We would appreciate donations of canned goods, frozen vegetables, bread. We’re building everything back up.” Cash donations are welcome as well, she said.

Food distribution is from 10 a.m. until noon and 1 to 3 p.m. on Friday and from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

WANT TO DONATE

Linn Benton Food Share: 545 S.W. Second St.. Corvallis, OR 97333, or Food Share warehouse, 33747 Looney Lane, Tangent, OR 97389

FISH of Albany: 1880 Hill St. S.E., Albany, OR 97321

FISH of Lebanon: Donations can be dropped off at the First Presbyterian Church, 145 W. Ash, between 3 and 5 p.m. Tuesday and Friday, or call 541-259-3200

Sweet Home Gleaners: 3031 Main St., Sweet Home, OR 97321

Alex Paul is the Linn County reporter for the Democrat-Herald. He can be contacted at 541-812-6114 or alex.paul@lee.net.

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