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Low Wages, High Costs Factor into OR Food Bank Hunger Survey

More than one-third of people who have been to a charitable food pantry in Oregon in 2015 say they've needed the assistance at least 12 times during the year. (Oregon Food Bank)
More than one-third of people who have been to a charitable food pantry in Oregon in 2015 say they've needed the assistance at least 12 times during the year. (Oregon Food Bank)
December 18, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. - One in five Oregonians faces a New Year in which he or she will rely on food from a food pantry or soup kitchen, according to a new survey.

Oregon Food Bank this week released the results of a survey of people who receive food assistance. One important finding was that 36 percent of food recipients said they visit their local food pantry regularly - at least 12 times a year, up 5 percentage points from just a few years ago.

However, Oregon Food Bank chief executive Susannah Morgan said it's good news that the survey found more people are working; they're just not making enough money.

"Compared to 2012, the folks who are accessing food assistance who are also actively seeking work fall into the 'unemployed' category, has gone down," she said. "So, in 2012, it was 23 percent of the people we served, and in 2015, it was 16 percent."

Another trend this year compared to 2012: More people age 65 and older are food-bank clients. One-third of those surveyed said food bank assistance has made the difference in being able to pay a utility bill. Almost as many (29 percent) cited high housing costs as a factor in their inability to make ends meet.

Morgan attended the Oregon Leadership Summit this week and cited one speaker's comment that Oregon is a "job-creation machine."

"This gives me real hope for the future, in thinking that we have the possibility of creating those jobs, those family-wage jobs," she said. "But he also said there has not been much movement on poverty."

Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed said they worry "often" or "always" about where their next meal is coming from. Morgan said a combination of low earnings and high debt lands people who never thought they'd be in this situation at their local food pantry. The source of the debt, for 39 percent of those surveyed, was medical bills.

The survey is online at oregonfoodbank.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR