Food drive organizers seek strong response

By Observer staff October 15, 2012 01:45 pm

Need for food assistance increasing in Union County

The fifth annual Union County Community Action Network (CAN)  food drive is gearing up for an expanded effort this year due to the increasing need for food assistance and a decline in donations. 

The actual CAN drive will be held at local grocery stores all day on Saturday, Nov. 3. It will coincide with the Boy Scouts’ annual Scouting for Food door-to-door effort. 

To boost donations, organizers have expanded the number of corporate sponsors and are working with the Salvation Army to place food donation barrels at various locations around town starting Monday, Oct. 15. 

The barrels will be placed at Les Schwab Tires, Bud Jackson’s, the Long Branch, Benchwarmers, John J. Howard and Associates and the county’s Daniel Chaplin Building.

 On Nov. 3 volunteers will be manning donation totes at Grocery Outlet, Walmart and Safeway. Shoppers are being asked to donate nonperishable food items as well as personal hygiene products. 

The donations will be taken to Community Connection’s food warehouse for distribution to all food banks in Union County. Last year some 25 tons of food was donated to the CAN effort, and organizers are hoping for an even better response this year because the need is so great.

Community Connection is seeing a seven percent increase in requests for food assistance this year, but donations are down 18 percent, said Carmen Gentry, Community Connection’s Union County manager. That amounts to about 260,000 fewer pounds of food, due largely to a drop in availability of government commodities and how much food is available through the Oregon Food Bank.

Local food drives like CAN are imperative in order to help meet demand, Gentry said.

“CAN helps us fill a huge gap,’’ Gentry said. “The community has been amazing when it comes to responding to a need for additional donations. We hope they’ll continue to do so.”

Food donations may range from canned fruits and vegetables to rice, infant formula and boxed pasta dinners. Other items needed include toilet paper, diapers, soap and detergent. Volunteers will have lists of preferred items to hand to shoppers as they enter the stores Nov. 3.

Cash donations are also accepted. Checks should be made out to United Way of Eastern Oregon and sent to P.O. Box 862, La Grande 97850 (note “CAN’’ in the memo).

Union County CAN is an all-volunteer group representing numerous entities and spearheaded by United Way. The effort began in 2008 in response to the increasing need for food assistance in Union County.

Sponsors who have pledged to contribute $1,000 or an equal amount of food for the overall CAN effort are Anderson Perry and Associates, Banner Bank, employees of the Grande Ronde Hospital, Hancock Forest Management, Legacy Auto Group, Les Schwab Tire, Mountain Valley Therapy, Oregon Trail Electric and Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Eastern Oregon.

Other corporate sponsors are The Observer and KCMB, for advertising and promotion, and Mountain West Moving and Storage, which provides trucks and manpower for placing and picking up the food totes.