More people than ever came through the doors of the Ashland Emergency Food Bank during the months of May and June. The economy may be improving for some folks, but those at the bottom are being crushed. Rents are going up and costs are increasing. Few employers are paying more than minimum wage.
So who do we greet each morning when we open for business?
Your first guess might be that it’s the fellow you see on the freeway ramp or the group begging on a downtown street corner. Certainly we serve homeless folks, and welcome them. But you might be surprised to hear that fewer than 10% of our clients identify themselves as homeless.
The vast majority of our customers are permanent residents of Ashland, Talent or the surrounding rural areas. In June, 555 households, representing 1,400 individuals, came to shop with us – a 25% increase over the same month last year. Our clients are seniors, students, the working poor and families. Forty percent of those receiving food from us were children under the age of 18.
Although stories of struggle seem especially predominant these days, we often see evidence of long-term change.
One of our volunteers recently came into the Food Bank tickled pink to share an update on a client I’ll call Mary.
We all remembered Mary from her first visit to the Food Bank. She had lost her home, had no job, and was clearly distraught. When she realized that AEFB would help her, she broke down.
Mary used the Food Bank on a monthly basis for nearly a year. A month ago, our volunteer walked into a local gas station and found her at the register. Mary asked if he remembered her. Then she said, “I have a job now, so I don’t need to come to the Food Bank any more. But you helped me get here. You gave me food when I had nothing. When I started to get on my feet, your services allowed me to save a little bit of money and get a place to live. Now I work and I can support myself. Thank you so much for your help.”
Mary’s story is not unique. Some of our clients will always need monthly services; for others, a short term helping hand is enough to support the journey toward self-sufficiency.
Whatever the circumstance, the Ashland Emergency Food Bank is here to ensure that members of our community – our friends and neighbors – have food to sustain them when they need it.
We are open Monday through Friday, and the first Saturday of the month, 9:30A.M.-12:30 P.M., and on the fourth Wednesday of each month from 5 to 7 p.m. If you need services or would like to donate food or money, come visit us at 560 Clover Lane, Ashland.