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OR Considers Food Assistance Cuts, Even as Hunger is Rising

Hunger-fighting advocates are worried that new budget proposals in Salem could hurt their efforts to help feed the hungry. (Lindsay Trapnell/Oregon Food Bank)
Hunger-fighting advocates are worried that new budget proposals in Salem could hurt their efforts to help feed the hungry. (Lindsay Trapnell/Oregon Food Bank)
February 10, 2017

SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon Legislature is diving into ways to make up for a $1.7 billion budget deficit, with proposals from the governor and lawmakers to carve out funds from food-assistance programs. However, advocates say that could exacerbate the state's worsening hunger problem.

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has shown that Oregon's food-insecurity rate has increased more than in any other state. The study compared three-year periods - 2010 to 2012 and 2013 to 2015.

Jon Stubenvoll, director of advocacy for Oregon Food Bank, said it will be hard to make progress in the fight against hunger under the current proposals.

"The math doesn't work here," he said. "So, we need to work with our legislative leadership in Salem and make sure they understand the situation the state is in right now."

Stubenvoll acknowledged that these are starting points for the Legislature and could change. Nearly one in six Oregonians is food insecure or doesn't know where their next meal is coming from. Cuts have been proposed to the Oregon Hunger Response Fund, which helps food banks across the state, farm-to-school programs and other child-assistance programs.

The Legislature's Joint Committee on Ways and Means is to begin touring the state today to speak with Oregonians about their budget priorities for the next two years. Stubenvoll said this is an opportunity for people to speak up for programs that fight hunger.

"We're hopeful that legislative leadership will listen to the voices from constituents back home, from people in need, and will respond," he said, "and will make investments in food-assistance programs."

The committee is to begin its tour in Salem this evening and will stop in six other locations throughout February.

Data on the Oregon food-insecurity rate is online at ocpp.org. The Ways and Means tour schedule is at apps.leg.state.or.us.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR