MEDFORD, Ore. — A partnership between ACCESS and the Ashland Food Co-op is now in its 20th year, having resulted in hundreds of thousands of meals for those in need and tens of thousands of dollars donated.
“We are so thankful to Ashland Food Co-operative for supporting our food share gardens for the past 20 years. With their help we have been able to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into the diets of food pantry guests throughout Jackson County,” said ACCESS Nutrition Director Rachael Ward.
According to ACCESS, this partnership alone has resulted in 434,848 meals for the food insecure in Jackson County, $70,466 in donations from a year-round coupon scan program that began in 2000, and nearly $10,000 in grant support for ACCESS' Food Share Gardens over the last five years.
"These community gardens help support the nutritional needs of local ACCESS food pantries and partner agencies. Gardens are operated by local community volunteers who plant, maintain and harvest the crops. In addition to learning valuable gardening techniques, volunteers can enjoy some of the bountiful excess harvest," the organization said.
The Ashland Food Co-op doesn't see this as a one-sided partnership, either.
“Whenever we're asked what the Co-op can do to address hunger for those who cannot afford healthy food, it is of great comfort to know that we can best serve these needs by focusing on our retail grocery service while supporting ACCESS in one of its core competencies of providing food assistance to those in need,” said Emile Amarotico, the Co-op’s General Manager.
There are more than 33,000 people in Jackson County who experience food insecurity, according to ACCESS. Of those people, the organization said, about 25 percent are children "who feel hunger’s impact on their overall health and ability to perform in school."