As neighbors and members of the same communities, we share many of the same hopes and fears and we all want what’s best for our families. One of the fundamental differences between us is that some of us know where our next meal is coming from and some do not. One in six Oregonians face food insecurity. They struggle silently and make heart-wrenching decisions that nobody should have to make. The need for food is essential and immediate. Without the basic security of knowing when you will eat next it is difficult to focus on anything else. The daily fight to survive can consume your life.
Felicia lives in Coos Bay Oregon and is grateful for your generosity.
"I've really noticed the difference in my skin and body since I got poor. It seems like such a contradiction, but I gained weigh being homeless. I don't even look like me anymore. I've always been a person who was really conscious and careful about what I put in my body. I know what I'm eating now is not good food, but my alternative is to eat nothing.
I lost my job and it only takes about three months for everything to go crazy. All of a sudden you're struggling. I was a web developer and I worked for a company that just up and moved to Tennessee. They said, "If you guys want to move to Tennessee, then make your way there and we'll give you an interview." Not even a job, just an interview. How were we going to make our way to Tennessee?
I'm starting all over. I went from a nice salary to a minimum wage job at a call center. I'm grateful, because there are people who don't have that, but at the same time my health issues are increasing because I have no money."
Felicia participated in Oregon Food Bank's Voices Project. It takes courage to stand up and tell your story so that others might better understand what it means to live with food insecurity. We want to thank the women and men who decided to share their thoughts and experiences with us. Their stories provide us with valuable insight and help us better accomplish our mission to eliminate hunger and its root causes ... because no one should be hungry.
Hunger relief is a year-round effort and we thank you for your continued support. During the holidays our hearts are filled due to the outpouring of community support through food and financial donations as well as volunteerism.
We could not do what we do without the incredible community investment. Last year, volunteers donated over 160,000 hours at Oregon Food Bank! Volunteer efforts assisted us in delivering over 36 million meals throughout Oregon and Clark County, Wash. Nearly a quarter of the food being delivered is purchased through donations made by donors like you. $10 allows us to acquire and distribute one food box which typically feeds a family of four for three to five days.
Why do we do this? We do it for people like Tim.
Friendly people draw others to Clay Street Table
How do you create community for people struggling to make ends meet or those who are homeless? At Clay Street Table volunteers from nearby churches, schools, civic groups, and the community, help run a meal program and pantry at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in southwest Portland. They serve about 2,000 meals each month.
What sets this program apart is the number of food recipients who are also volunteers. Local residents in low-income housing, as well as the homeless, join forces with volunteers under the direction of Rev. Dr. Paul Davis. Rev. Davis welcomes everyone who enters the door as a friend. His infectious energy gets people working together, blurring the lines between haves and have-nots.
To build skills and foster community, pantry recipients can take part in the Cooks Supper program. Class participants start each session by cooking dinner for as many as 150 homeless youth who are part of The Underground, a community for unhoused youth aged 14-25 years. Executive Director Ken Loyd organizes local college students to serve the meals. This combination of education, service and food is the basis for a strong community among people who might never have made a connection.
Do you remember who taught you how to cook? Was it your mom or maybe your grandfather? Even if you don’t consider yourself a good cook, you probably learned some skills to make a healthy meal. Meet Sidney. Through the efforts of the Multnomah County Health Department, he and a group ofdiabetic and pre-diabetic community members recently completed Share our Strength’s Cooking Matters™ classes taught by Oregon Food Bank’s Nutrition Education Program. These classes are offered to low-income individuals through Oregon Food Bank’s partnerships with social service organizations. In Sidney’s case, his condition isn’t the only challenge he faces; he’s also homeless and accesses emergency services to survive. Despite these obstacles, Sidney helps prepare food for hundreds of people who visit the dining hall at St. Francis of Assisi. But what really inspired Sidney were the volunteers who taught the Cooking Matters course. After the first class, he asked the St.Francis cooks if he could prepare the healthy turkey chili recipe for his fellow diners. They gave him the opportunity to fix this meal for over 150 people. Now there’s a special folder at St. Francis with all of Sidney’s recipes from his cooking class. Cooking Matters gave Sidney a feeling of hope and the experience of community. It’s donors like you that give people like Sidney the opportunity to take a course on healthy cooking that in turn will impact his health and the health of hundreds more.
Every day in Oregon, hundreds of thousands of our neighbors engage in a lonely and all but invisible struggle to afford enough food for themselves and their families. They face choices no one should have to, and they do so with so much strength, resilience and quiet dignity that most people never notice how prevalent hunger is in their neighborhoods.
In Tillamook, we met a man, Mike, who has been told his whole life that he shouldn’t even be alive.
“I’m one of those ghost people. It’s hard when you have disabilities. People always tell me I am a retard, I am no good, I shouldn’t even be alive. And I hear that constantly—my whole life. I’m the type that doesn’t like to get help; I have to do it on my own. The last few years have been really, really tough. I had to break down, put my pride on hold and get help from the food pantry. I’m the type who sits in the back of the room not saying anything. I’m one of those ghost people. I’m grateful for the food banks. If other people need help with food, I help them when I can. I help people who are a little bit worse off than me."
America’s narrative about poverty and hunger is dominated more and more every day by the false belief that people who are struggling are making poor choices or not working hard enough. The purpose of Oregon Food Bank’s annual Voices project is to shine a light on the real causes of hunger by bringing attention to real stories of people we serve. We traveled across the state to speak with food-insecure Oregonians about issues that matter to them.
We sincerely appreciate the honesty and courage of those who shared their experiences with us. These stories move and educate us. No one should be hungry, and so long as hunger still exists, no one should have to face it alone.
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Corporate Relations Developer