Donations for the critical fourth quarter are down significantly at the Sisters Kiwanis Food Bank.

Tom Hespe, who oversees the Food Bank project for the service club, explained that October, November and December are the most critical months in donations for the Food Bank. That’s when the bulk of donations come?in.

“That’s when we have to make it or break it — in the fourth quarter, in the giving season, if you will,” Hespe said.

So far, the Food Bank is not making it.

“Where we are is, we’re down $25,359,” Hespe said.

Hespe said that translates to a 30 percent drop year-to-year against 2018, and a 48 percent drop in Q4 donations. Last year, the Food Bank received multiple donations in the $10,000 range. Those have not occurred yet, though Hespe holds out hope for December. He noted that the website has been receiving contributions, and food drives like that conducted through November by The Nugget and the Cub Scouts and others help. It just hasn’t been enough.

Hespe said he is not sure what has caused the steep drop-off.

“It’s not for lack of trying, I can tell you that,” he said. “There’s no obvious explanation for this in my mind.”

The drop-off in donations comes at a time when costs and demand are growing.

Food expense is up four percent at $53,576 and the amount of monthly food distribution is up 3 percent at 118,489 pounds (9,874 monthly average). The number of clients served is up significantly, among both families who have shelter (31 percent) and those who are homeless (34 percent).

To make a cash donation, visit the website and click on the “Donate” button. Checks payable to Sisters Kiwanis Food Bank may be mailed to P.O. Box 1296, Sisters, OR 97759.

Hespe assured the public that there is no danger of the Food Bank closing its doors.

“We have a very robust business model,” he said.

The Food Bank’s model allows its clients to shop for their food, rather than just handing them a box of whatever is on hand. That means families get what they really want and need. The Kiwanis Food Bank also allows multiple visits. That policy makes the food bank more efficient and effective, with less potential for waste.

However, the downward trend is troubling, especially as the Food Bank is in the midst of a season of high demand and — usually — generous giving.

Hespe deployed a football analogy for the critical nature of this last month of the year.

“We’re in the red zone,” he said. “We’ve got to score. We’ve got to score in December.”