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State, Federal Help Falters for Hungry OR Families

Food insecurity has doubled since the start of the pandemic, according to Oregon State University. (David Pereiras/Adobe Stock)
Food insecurity has doubled since the start of the pandemic, according to Oregon State University. (David Pereiras/Adobe Stock)
August 11, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. -- As Oregon families struggle during the pandemic, anti-hunger advocates fear state lawmakers and the federal government aren't doing enough to help.

The Oregon Legislature called a special session this week. Matt Newell-Ching, public policy manager with Oregon Food Bank, said the main focus is on cuts to deal with the state's $1 billion budget hole. He said with coronavirus relief talks stalled in Congress, programs that address food insecurity could face a double whammy.

"The idea, hopefully, is that at least there's some relief from the federal government that's going to help go directly into communities. And so right now, we're kind of seeing the worst-case scenario where it's cuts at the state level and no new federal investments," Newell-Chang said. "We hope that changes."

As of Monday, Newell-Ching said it looked likely Oregon lawmakers would make cuts to the farm-to-school and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs. At the federal level, Oregon Food Bank is calling on Congress to increase the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by 15% and extend cash for groceries to families of students who receive free or reduced-price school lunches.

Newell-Ching said President Donald Trump's executive orders over the weekend did not include any specific aid for food assistance. But the need is growing. Oregon State University estimates food insecurity has doubled since the pandemic began.

Newell-Ching added some communities face disproportionate levels of hunger and poverty.

"We also know that the increases in food insecurity are not experienced equally," he said. "Black, indigenous, people of color, women, immigrants and low-wage workers all have borne the brunt of this crisis."

Newell-Ching said even with federal aid, the state is on a long road to recovery. He said Oregon Food Bank's partner agencies are ready to assist those in need.

"If you need food immediately, there is food available somewhere near your community, and please don't hesitate to reach out," he said. "It's OK to ask for help."

Folks can find the nearest Oregon Food Bank partner at Oregonfoodfinder.org.

Disclosure: Oregon Food Bank contributes to our fund for reporting on Community Issues and Volunteering, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Poverty Issues, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR