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.