PORTLAND, Ore. -

-Northwest farmers will fight hunger throughout June Dairy Month with a goal to help feed hungry families in the summer months by collecting cash and food donations in partnership with Fred Meyer stores.

The effort will benefit the Oregon Food Bank Network at a time when the need is particularly acute for children who have less access to school breakfast and lunch programs. Summer meal programs and emergency food boxes help fill the gaps.

The second annual, month-long drive includes events in Portland, Medford and Bend. The Oregon kickoff event is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 29, at Director Park in downtown Portland.

The public will be invited to bring food or cash donations and help repack food for the Oregon Food Bank Network. Kroger Swan Island Dairy will give away milk and chocolate milk, and Salt and Straw will offer ice cream for $2 a scoop with all proceeds donated to the Oregon Food Bank Network.

Additional donation events will be held at Fred Meyer stores in Bend on June 6 and Medford on June 20.

Nonperishable food donations can be made in barrels at Fred Meyer stores in Oregon and Washington, while cash donations can be made at Fred Meyer checkout registers and online at www.nwfarmersfightinghunger.org.

Cash donations generated by the campaign will help get more nutrient-rich foods, like milk, cheese and yogurt into emergency food boxes. "Good nutrition is vital to healthy growth and development. Too often families have to resort to less nutritious food to stretch their budget," said Susannah Morgan, CEO of Oregon Food Bank. "Food and funds raised during June Dairy Month will help provide thousands of families with the right foods to keep them strong, healthy and full of energy."

To inject some competition into the campaign, the directors of the Department of Agriculture from both Oregon and Washington are vying to see which state can generate the most food and cash donations. The winning state earns the "Director's Trophy." Last year, the state of Washington was the victor.

"As we saw last year, this campaign helps raise the profile of the hunger issue and also raises the profile of all the great efforts agriculture is making to help alleviate hunger in the Pacific Northwest," said Katy Coba, Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. "While the competition between the two states last year was great and helped bring much needed food to many people, the need to help hungry families and individuals in Oregon and Washington during the summer months has not gone away. I'm confident both states can do even more this year to provide for those experiencing hunger."

Hunger is at an all-time high in Oregon. In an average month, an estimated 270,000 people in Oregon and Clark County, Washington, ate meals from emergency food boxes during the past year. Of those, almost 92,000 were children.