The 29th annual Food for the Needy drive thus far with food collected, has reached a little over $1,100, trying adamantly to reach the set $10,000 goal with less than a week to go.

Food for the Needy is a program involving the Constitution-Tribune, Hy-Vee, and Piggly Wiggly, to fight hunger within the Livingston County community. The program is a free-will donation, with any amount of non-perishable food items accepted. Monetary donations may also be made, and are used to purchase meat and produce to go into the Christmas baskets for those who are in need of assistance in our area.

With harder economic times, the program set in place to help The Salvation Army has not met a goal since 2009, when a goal of $12,000 was surpassed with $14,665 in cash and food donations. In 2010, going from the previous year's total, a goal of $14,600 was set, yet only $4,835 in cash and donations was raised. In 2011, a goal of $10,000 was met with only $6,400 raised.

"In tough times, these things get a little hard to complete," said Salvation Army Major John Flanagan. "We are still looking forward to whatever comes in. It all helps out a lot."

Currently, The Salvation Army has approximately 300 applications from families in the Livingston and Grundy County areas for the Christmas holiday. The Christmas baskets that are distributed each contain enough food for Christmas dinner, as well as a few more dinners after the Christmas holiday. Items such as ham, vegetables, and stuffing are put in for Christmas dinner, along with other items that might include pancake mix, cornbread mix, tuna, rice, and spaghetti.

"What we've done this year and last year -- we purchase the food for the Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets," said Flanagan, "and then we use Food for the Needy to restock the food pantry, which is completely empty right now."

Food for the Needy donations represent a large percentage of what The Salvation Army is able to provide throughout the winter and spring months across the community and surrounding areas. The campaign began in 1983, with a $1,000 goal and, with final totals from 2011, has raised more than $275,000 in cash and canned goods since its inception.

The large red donation boxes are placed at Piggly-Wiggly, Hy-Vee, and the Constitution-Tribune office. Donations will be accepted through Monday, Dec. 17.

Major Flanagan said ideal donations, in addition to monetary gifts, include items such as canned soups, canned vegetables and canned fruits, canned tuna, peanut butter, boxed pudding, Jell-O mixes, and other non-perishable food items. Monetary donations are used to purchase milk, meat, fruit, produce, and other perishable food items. Food collected through the food drive but not distributed in the Christmas baskets helps to stock the shelves at The Salvation Army. The Food for the Needy share drive is one of The Salvation Army's two food drives annually, with the other one being the Letter Carriers food drive each spring.