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Cooking Up Summer Hunger Relief in Oregon

June 2, 2008

Portland, OR - Gov. Ted Kulongoski has really stirred the pot by issuing specific challenges to food businesses and other industries during "Hunger Awareness Week." Demand for emergency food is up nearly 20 percent in some Oregon towns, with the highest jumps in rural and coastal communities. But with a state economic forecast that's relatively stagnant, and soaring food and fuel prices, many wonder whether companies will dig a little deeper to help those in need.

Rachel Bristol, executive director and CEO of the Oregon Food Bank, says it's important to maintain the momentum because hunger is not just a one-week occurrence.

"My biggest hope is that people understand the devastating impact of hunger, particularly on our children and their ability to thrive and to learn. We really set them up for an uphill battle if we're not providing good nutrition."

For example, Bristol points out, only about one-third of kids eligible for reduced-price meals during the school year continue to receive them during the summer months, and some towns have no summer food program at all. Hunger Awareness Week already has inspired several companies to come forward, interested in sponsoring such efforts.

Registered dietitian Anne Hoisington with the OSU Extension Service believes the challenge issued to Oregon's medical community is to ask hunger-related questions when they see kids. The ability to make referrals to food programs is a solution that has been overlooked, she says.

"It's not a conversation that happens currently in a lot of situations. This is true, in part, because the clinical setting is just such a busy place. Health providers need to be asking families with children a lot of different things."

Hoisington says an online training program to acquaint clinic staffers with food insecurity issues and how to broach the subject with families will be ready this fall.

Information about the Oregon Food Bank is available online at www.oregonfoodbank.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR