Oregon lawmakers get paper plate pleas

Food banks cite growing need in pitch for state funds

SALEM, Ore. - One-thousand paper plates are being handed to Oregon legislators Thursday, with a message on each plate from an Oregonian who has relied on a local food bank. Food bankers from every corner of the state will be serving up the plates, along with a request for more investment in the Oregon Hunger Response Fund.

It is a partnership between the state, local food banks and private companies to help stretch assistance abilities, Oregon Food Bank CEO Susannah Morgan said.

"In Oregon, we are still dealing with an unprecedented need for food assistance," she said. "We have seen the requests for food assistance rise by 50 percent since the beginning of the Great Recession, and it's still going up."

Morgan said boosting the state's investment in the fund by $375,000 a year will help keep services to the hungry level.

Every month, about 260,000 Oregonians eat meals provided from an emergency food box. Those benefiting are usually unemployed, underemployed, seniors, families with children or people with disabilities.

Ryan McCambridge, chair of the Oregon Food Bank Network and program coordinator of Linn-Benton Food Share, explained that every food bank uses its share of the fund differently. Some use it to purchase food, he said, and at his food bank, they use it to maximize donations.

"That allows us to go out to grocery stores and Oregon State University and pick up the product that is close to code date, but still perfectly fit for folks -- it's a highly nutritious food - and then distribute it that same day," he explained.

Statewide, McCambridge said, the fund leveraged more than $2 million in local funding, 56,000 volunteer hours and $500,000 in matched and in-kind donations to food banks.

Deborah Courson Smith of Oregon News Service provided this report.

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