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Holiday food drives bring more participation, results

John Seelmeyer

Company food drives, a tradition of the holiday season at many businesses, are thriving this year as joblessness remains commonplace.

“We’ve got a pretty good pile of food here, much bigger than previous years,” says Tobin Basta, a project manager at Q&D Construction who heads the company’s participation in a food drive organized by the Northern Nevada Chapter of Associated General Contractors.

Construction workers in particular have seen the effects of job losses among friends and co-workers, Basta says, and they’re responding generously.

Norm Dianda, president of Q&D, just ordered 50 turkeys to donate to a Salvation Army food drive, noting that aid to the hungry remains one of his personal priorities in the sharp downturn in the construction industry.

Companies far removed from the worst-hit sectors of the local economy also are stepping up.

The Reno office of Grant Thornton, a certified public accounting firm, exceeded its goal in a recent food drive by 10 percent, says Marketing Manager Cathie Graham.

“We exceeded all of our goals,” she says, noting that participation was far more widespread among employees than previous years.

“Everyone contributed,” she says, noting that almost every northern Nevada resident knows a friend or family member who has lost a job during the downturn.

Organizers of some food drives, in fact, need to overcome the concerns of potential donors who want to make sure that their own pantries are stocked in case they lose their jobs before they contribute to charity events.

“It’s tough this year,” says Max Hershenow, a principal in the Reno architectural firm of Hershenow + Klippenstein, which organizes an annual food drive among employees, clients and friends.

Still, he says the architectural firm expects to gather several hundred pounds of food as well as cash contributions for the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.

Hershenow + Klippenstein’s 15 employees became well acquainted with the Food Bank and its work when the firm designed the agency’s new distribution center at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center.

Cherie Jamason, president and chief executive officer of the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, says demand is growing just as rapidly as donations of food items and cash.

The Food Bank is serving nearly 112,000 people a year these days, up by 45 percent from just two years ago.

“Folks know that there is a huge need,” says Jamason. “It’s all driven by unemployment.”

Holiday food drives play a big role in helping the Food Bank meet the need. Drives during the Christmas season last year brought 300,500 pounds of food into its warehouse.

But cash contributions are even more helpful, Jamason says. With its wholesale buying power, the Food Bank can purchase more food with $1 in contributions than a consumer could purchase on his own.

The amount the Food Bank spends to purchase food has more than doubled in the past year as it seeks to ensure that basic foods tuna, peanut butter, canned fruit get to hungry families.

Jamason says, too, that donors and organizers of holiday food drives can be provide extra assistance with donations throughout the year. While food drives peak during the holiday season, families are just as hungry on Memorial Day.