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Messages of Hunger Served on Paper Plates to Lawmakers

PHOTO: On Thursday, Oregon lawmakers will read handwritten messages on hundreds of paper plates from food bank clients from across the state, as part of advocacy efforts for the Oregon Hunger Response Fund. Photo courtesy Oregon Food Bank.
PHOTO: On Thursday, Oregon lawmakers will read handwritten messages on hundreds of paper plates from food bank clients from across the state, as part of advocacy efforts for the Oregon Hunger Response Fund. Photo courtesy Oregon Food Bank.
April 14, 2015

SALEM, Ore. - Oregon lawmakers may not be eating off paper plates this week - but they may be reading a few.

Oregon Food Bank network sites across the state have been collecting handwritten messages on paper plates from people who need food assistance to get through the month. They'll share them this week as they ask the Legislature to keep – and increase – the Oregon Hunger Response Fund.

Sarah Flynn, Oregon Food Bank advocacy and community engagement manager, says demand hasn't decreased, yet there's been talk of reducing the Hunger Response Fund as a state budget surplus could trigger the tax rebate known as the "kicker," rather than funding social services.

"The education budget was also completed earlier this session than in previous sessions," she says. "So there's less money left for human services programs and the safety net, which have historically been under-funded."

Hunger Response Fund dollars are used partly to buy food, and partly divided among all food bank network sites for their own priorities, so that even the most remote, rural areas can benefit.

In Jackson County, Philip Yates, Access Medford's nutrition programs director, says they use their money for "Fresh Alliance," a program to collect produce and meat stores would otherwise be throwing away.

"It's really prime quality food that we would not get otherwise," he says. "That $45,000 helps to cover the cost of our personnel who drive around the county to pick the product up."

Yates says that the more rural the county, the higher the transportation costs to stock its food banks.

Flynn says about 250 people will attend the legislative action day on Thursday, and will deliver some paper plate messages to lawmakers from people in their districts. Other plates will be posted on a wall for display. According to Flynn, one of the plates contains a message from a woman in Beaverton.

"It said, 'I cried when my son brought home his school lunch so that I would have dinner, too. He didn't want me to be hungry because we didn't have enough for both of us to eat dinner,'" says Flynn.

The governor's budget recommends $2.7 million for the Hunger Response Fund over two years, the same as the previous two years. Flynn says for four years, Oregon Food Bank sites have given out more than one million emergency food boxes a year, so it is asking for $3.25 million.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR