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Congress Gives Oregon Reasons to Sing the Blues

June 30, 2011

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon's efforts to fight hunger will get an international boost this weekend, as musicians and their fans from around the world gather in Portland for the annual Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival.

During the four-day event, they probably won't be thinking much about what's happening in Congress - but the Oregon Food Bank is. Jon Stubenvoll, advocacy director for the Food Bank, says proposed cuts to federal food programs are making them especially nervous about the coming months.

"The Ryan proposal, for example, would dramatically cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. It would also substantially cut the federal government's partnership with food banks across the country."

Cuts to the commodity foods and SNAP programs would have a substantial impact in Oregon, where food-bank use already is up 11 percent from a year ago, he says. So, attendees at this year's festival will be asked to do more than enjoy the music. People can learn about the problem of food insecurity at a booth called "Freedom from Hunger," says Stubenvoll.

"We're going to have giant postcards available for folks to sign so that they can let their members of Congress know that food should be a priority, and we should continue to invest in food and nutrition programs."

With more than 125 acts, this is the nation's second-largest blues festival. Headliners this year include six-time Grammy Award winner Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Maceo Parker and Lucinda Williams.

The festival will be held at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland from Friday through Monday. Admission is $10 and two cans of food. Last year's event raised $650,000 and more than 100,000 pounds of food.

More information and a daily event schedule is online at waterfrontbluesfest.com.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR