For the first time ever, distribution of emergency food boxes in Oregon and southwest Washington topped l million as growing levels of long-term unemployment forced more and more people to fall into poverty and to seek emergency food.
As daunting as the numbers may be, we did it. The Oregon Food Bank Network was able to meet the staggering demand for food due to record levels of USDA commodities and the generosity of the entire community.
The Oregon Food Bank Network of 20 regional food banks and 923 partner agencies provided a record 1,024,000 emergency food boxes- a 12% increase over the previous year- to families in need from July 1, 2010 to June 30,2011. Since the beginning of the Great Recession, food box distribution has increased 30 percent. The OFB Network now distributes almost a quarter-of- a- million more food boxes annually than it did before the recession.
In tough economic times, helping people in need is more important than ever. It will continue to take the support of the entire community to meet the growing demand for food. So, thank you for your continued support in our effort to eliminate hunger and its root causes.
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Family economic security in America increased steadily for several decades during the last century. Group participants in a focus group in Portland, Oregon feel like they are increaslingly exposed to harsh risks.
Denise who resides in Portland says, "I've never needed help before. I've been lucky up to this point in my life. But here I am, 15 years before retirement, facing the biggest financial stuggle of my life. We may lose our home."
Denised wanted to share her story with legislators through OFB's focus groups because she is concerned about the direction our state is headed. She once thought her famly's economic future was safe. She owned her home and had retirement savings. "I was an optician and had my own optical shop," she said. "People came to me to get their glasses fixes. We also had a mobile optical service for nursing home residents. I was making a decent living and helped a lot of people on Medicaid and medical assistance. Then I had to close my business when some of my clients couldn't return to me because of changes in the Oregon Health Plan."
"I never thought that I would have to ask for help at this stage in my life," she said. "In the last two years I'vve been laid off from two jobs due to the economy and cutbacks. My husband and I aren't home at the same time, because he worksnights and I am on the go a lot, trying to find employment. I've already had to take money from my 403(k) to pay for bills. I've had to prioritize keeping the lights on over food. So, I'm grateful for help from the food pantry.
"I just want to thank you for listening to my story. "Change can happen if we all pull together, share our concerns and love one another. Change could start right here with us."
This is just one story highlighting the changing face of hunger. It is difficult, however with the help of donors like you, OFB is able to purchase and distribute food, throughout the state, to those in need. Thank you for your support of the community.
According to a 2010 study published in the journal ‘Psychological Science,’ the cost of healthy food, including fruits and vegetables, has increased almost 200 percent since 1983. The cost of unhealthy foods, on the other hand,has increased at a much slower rate. The issue is challenging food banks across the nation to examine their sources of food and donor dollars to look for economical ways to increase the nutritional value of the food thatis made available to clients. Statistically, lower income groups have higher rates of obesity. And a startling 27 percent of Oregon Food Bank emergency food box recipients reported in 2010 that at least one member of theirhousehold has diabetes. This, of course, can be tied directly to diet and available food choices.“If you have $3 to feed yourself, your choices gravitate toward foods which give you the mostcalories per dollar,” says Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center of Public Health and Nutrition at the University of Washington.
“Not only are the empty calories cheaper, but the healthy foods are becoming more and more expensive. Freshvegetables and fruits are rapidly becoming luxury goods.”
The cost of food also becomes an issue for people in more isolated rural areas – or food deserts – where grocery stores are few and far between. A 2010 nationwide “Map the Meal Gap” study conducted by Feeding America identified two Oregon counties – Wheeler and Crook – as counties with the highest average cost of a meal in the nation. Clients in isolated, rural areas often share how they shy away from purchasing fruits and vegetables in favor of food with a longer shelf life because the closest grocery store may be more than 30 miles away. In response to this, Oregon Food Bank is putting strategies and programs in place to bring healthier food to more people – a trend that is echoed by food banks across the nation. These include our Learning Garden andNutrition Education Cooking Matters™ classes, community food security outreach like our FEAST (Food, Education, Agriculture, Solutions, Together) events, and an emphasis on securing more perishable food, like fruits and vegetables. “We’re doing everything we can to become experts with the distribution of perishables,” saysMike Moran, OFB’s food resource development manager. “Thanks to more partnerships with the agricultural community, retailers through our Fresh Alliance program and expanded storage capacity, OFB procured and distributed 57 percent more fresh produce to communitiesthroughout Oregon this year. And we want to increase that year-over-year – it’s our most aggressive growth goal.”
OFB donors are also helping to make nutritious food more available to those who need it. Part of a $50,000 grant from Bank of America was used to purchase three truckloads of fresh produce. The remainder allowed us to purchase healthier food that was more expensive to supplement our donated food supply.
Everyone – regardless of income level –deserves the right to eat a nutritious meal. And with resourceful, strategic thinking by our partners, donors and staff, Oregon Food Bank is working hard to ensure clients have access to food that will nourish their body, as well as their future.
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Corporate Relations Developer