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A Hunger to Help: OR Digs Deeper to Fight Food Crises

April 30, 2008

Portland, OR – As people in the Northwest struggle with rising costs for food and fuel, they're also realizing they are not the only ones. A humanitarian aid organization with offices in Portland and Seattle says it's receiving reports from its workers in a dozen countries that emergency food assistance is desperately needed. Mercy Corps says food prices for some commodities have risen 70 to 80 percent in the past year, leaving families who already spend at least half of their income on food unable to keep up with the rising costs.

Penelope Anderson of Mercy Corps says the crisis has been called a "silent tsunami," and for good reason.

"I could not name a place right now that this is not affecting. I've been working for Mercy Corps now for eight years. I have never seen anything like this, in terms of global impact."

Anderson says Mercy Corps is providing emergency food aid and redoubling its efforts to teach better farming techniques. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 37 countries are now undergoing severe food shortages.

With prices high and wages stagnant here at home, you'd think people might hesitate to help those on other continents, but Anderson says that, on the contrary, they're finding greater empathy.

"A small amount of money in the U.S. can go a very long way overseas. So what we're actually finding is that there's increased awareness, increased interest and, for many people, just an increased desire to help."

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Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR