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Members of the La Grande business community unload items they donated to the CAN food drive in late October. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
Successful drive will help negate impact of food stamp cuts
A daunting cloud is on the horizon for those providing food for the less fortunate in Union County.
Fortunately, it is a cloud that seems less imposing today thanks to the success of the annual Community Action Network food drive. The drive, which concluded Nov. 2, generated a total of almost 36,000 pounds of food items for Union County food banks.
“I’m very happy. Our community is really blessed. This will help us stretch our supplies for four to six weeks, which is fantastic,” said Carmen Gentry, the Union County manager of Community Connection of Northeast Oregon and its food bank manager for Union, Wallowa, Grant and Baker counties.
The success of the CAN drive means that local food banks are now in a better position to serve families and individuals who will be hurt by cuts in the federal food stamp program. The cuts began taking effect at the start of the month.
“We do not know how much this will impact people in Union County,” Gentry said. “Without (the 36,000 pounds of food from the CAN drive) we would struggling for sure.”
The 36,000 pounds of food the CAN drive raised all went to Community Connection’s regional food bank on Albany Street. The donated food is now being distributed to the seven pantries in La Grande, Elgin, Cove, North Powder and Union. The pantries in La Grande are located at the Salvation Army, Shelter From the Storm and Neighbor to Neighbor Ministries.
A total of 1,543 people were provided food at these pantries in October, up from the 1,397 served in September.
Gentry credits the success of the CAN drive, which raised 33,000 pounds of food in 2012, to a remarkably well-coordinated organization.
“It is very well organized and managed. It is a very caring group of people,” Gentry said.
Gentry said that the people instrumental for the success of the effort include Jeff Puckett, the drive’s coordinator, Ted and Karyl Kramer, Linda Jerofke, Glenas Orcutt, Robert Strope and Angelika Brooks.
The drive raised 16,000 pounds of food on Nov. 2. Much of the food was donated at collection sites at Safeway, Grocery Outlet and Walmart. A substantial amount of food was also collected by local Boy Scouts. The scouts conducted their annual food drive in conjunction with the CAN effort.
The drive got off to a fast start in late October when local businesses donated 20,000 pounds of food.