Of the Baker City Herald

As the food service director for Baker School District 5J, Scott Craig helps provide every student with healthy meals, whether it's breakfast, lunch, or a snack.

andquot;One of the biggest things we're finding is how important breakfast is to the child,andquot; he said.

The Oregon Food Bank reports that 53 percent of Oregon households receiving emergency food have children. Of those, 21 percent reported that the children had to cut or skip meals.

School food programs and other local programs help fill that need in the community.

Currently, the school district offers breakfast and lunch at all schools, an afterschool snack program in all except the high school, and a summer meal program.

andquot;Our breakfast program is increasing all the timeandquot; and the snack program andquot;is geared toward specialty groupsandquot; who meet after school, Craig said.

He said that if there was only one meal they could serve, he, along with many others he's talked to, would choose breakfast.

andquot;It's just so important; it keeps them going,andquot; he said.

In addition to the school offerings, several other Baker City groups are also involved with addressing the problem of hunger.

Salvation Army employees and volunteers are doing their part to provide nutritious meals again this year with the Christmas food box program.

This continues the tradition the organization was founded on in the late 1880s, said Les Stevahn, manager and extension division coordinator.

And, with Oregon leading the nation with the highest hunger rate, as reported by the Oregon Food Bank, the need for food has grown. One in seven Oregonians received emergency food boxes last year.

Salvation Army volunteers filled 115 food boxes this week, which will be delivered on Saturday by members of the Baker City Fire Department.

andquot;There are a lot of people and a lot of food,andquot; Stevahn said. andquot;We've had such an influx of people donating stuff. The donations are good enough that we can put in something extra.andquot;

And the 20 volunteers had a few choices of which extras go in the boxes. This week they worked in a room at the Youth Center piled high with jars of peanut butter, cans of tomato sauce, peas, corn, beans, juice and more than 100 boxes of fresh apples.

andquot;They've never gotten fresh fruit,andquot; Stevahn said.

The perishable goods meat, milk and eggs will be gathered on Friday and refrigerated until the boxes are ready for distribution.

The food was purchased with the money accumulated from this year's donations, as well as $2,400 from the federal Emergency Food and Shelter Program.

The local Catholic Church food bank also donates food to the Salvation Army for use in their Christmas boxes.

This year, the Salvation Army will be supplying at least 400 individuals with food.

Stevahn said each year andquot;we stay pretty close to the same amount of boxes. The only difference is that the size of families has increased.andquot;

Families can request the food boxes when they sign up for the Salvation Army's family services programs.

Members of the Church of the Nazarene are also distributing food boxes on Friday.

andquot;It's an all-church thing we get contributions from the (other local) churches,andquot; said Wanda Steege, Nazarene Church mission president.

Names are given to them from members of the congregation, and volunteers build a box filled with fixings for a hearty Christmas meal: turkey or ham, potatoes, cranberries, sauces, vegetables, milk, eggs, flour, sugar, sweet potatoes and sometimes fresh fruit.

Steege said they keep in contact with the Salvation Army, and compare their food box lists.

andquot;We connect with the Salvation Army to make sure we're not both taking a box to the same individual,andquot; she said.

Lillian Terry, Nazarene Church sheparding ministries director, said their food box numbers have increased by four to five boxes each year.

andquot;We're simply providing a whole lot nicer meal than they might otherwise have, and make somebody's Christmas a little more merry,andquot; Terry said.

Baker High School also has a hand in providing food this holiday by filling several barrels with canned food.

However, one 16-year-old sophomore took this task to an extreme.

Melissa Carey began collecting food in early December, ending up this week with 1,500 cans.

andquot;I'd go gather the cans at night when I got off school,andquot; she said.

This is the third year she has collected canned food on her own, but 1,500 is by far her largest collection, she said.

Carey collected a little more than 400 cans by herself storing them in her living room before she enlisted full-time help.

This came in the form of her friends Autumn Reynolds, Coquille Blanchard, Phil Kloosterman and Alvin Gardner Jr.

andquot;They've been helping me through the whole thing,andquot; Carey said.

The cans were taken to BHS this week and added to the amount already collected by high school students. They were presented to the Salvation Army during the last school assembly of 2002.