Survey Asks: Who is Hungry in Oregon – and Why?
PHOTO: Emergency food boxes contain supplies for several days' worth of meals. Photo credit: Daniel Root, PhotoForce.
November 1, 2012
PORTLAND, Ore. - It's a long, slow climb out of the recession for some families. A new survey from the Oregon Food Bank network finds that just over 60 percent of the people seeking food assistance in Oregon report their income has dropped in the past two years, and 27 percent cite long-term unemployment as the reason they are using food banks.
Janeen Wadsworth, Food Bank interim CEO, says that is up by 5 percent, compared to before the recession.
"We hear a lot about saving the middle class, bringing the middle class back - and we're all for that. But the poorest of the poor in our country - we're not hearing much about them. That's very concerning, because they need an equal voice, as well."
Thirty-four percent of the households surveyed say they have at least one person looking for work. Before the recession, that figure was 20 percent. About one in five respondents (18 percent) say they're working part-time, or for such low wages that they cannot meet basic monthly expenses.
Almost half of the respondents (48 percent) say high food prices are prompting them to visit food pantries to supplement what they can buy. All but nine percent said their SNAP or food stamp benefits do not last for a full month. With multi-billion-dollar cuts proposed for SNAP in both the U.S. House and Senate, Wadsworth says her organization has already calculated what that might mean for Oregon.
"It translates to approximately 9 million to 10 million meals lost every year. That really puts it into perspective, what those cuts would mean. That's a lot of support and a lot of help for people who are on the edge, for the most part, to lose that resource. We're very concerned about that."
High utility costs and higher gasoline prices were other reasons given for needing food assistance. Some also mentioned health care costs.
The Oregon Food Bank network conducts the survey every other year. This year, 4,600 households took part. The survey results are available on its website, www.oregonfoodbank.org.