Oregon's hunger rate still high, new report says

SNAP has kept it from getting worse, officials say

PORTLAND, Ore. - While Oregon's hunger rate remains high, it has not gotten worse, according to the 2012 Household Food Security in the United States report, released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"Oregon has managed to hold the line and prevent hunger from getting worse, thanks in large part to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program" (SNAP, formerly called food stamps), said Patti Whitney-Wise, executive director of Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon. "SNAP has worked exactly how it was designed, expanding during a time of great need in our state."

"We are also proud of the Oregon Food Bank Network's efforts across the state to help those at risk of hunger with food boxes for the part of the month when SNAP benefits run out," said Susannah Morgan, CEO of Oregon Food Bank.

The USDA measures food insecurity every year through a series of up to 18 survey questions that ask U.S. households about their ability to obtain enough food for an active, healthy life for all members.

About 13.6 percent of households – more than 509,000 Oregonians – equivalent to the population of Jackson, Douglas, Deschutes and Malheur counties combined -- suffered food insecurity in 2010-2012. That means they lacked consistent access to adequate amounts of nutritious food. That percentage did not change from the 2009-11 period.

-- About 5.8 percent of households – more than 217,000 individuals – equivalent to the populations of Salem and Medford combined – suffered very low food security – also known as hunger – in 2010-2012. They ate less, skipped meals or sometimes went without food for entire days. That compares to the 5.9 percent rate for 2009-11.

"As we move out of the Great Recession, we are mindful that Oregon's latest economic forecast shows people are still facing a job market with limited numbers of good paying jobs," said Mark Edwards, professor of sociology, Oregon State University School of Public Policy. "We need to continue our focus on helping families put food on the table as the economy recovers."

"Cuts to SNAP will mean thousands more Oregonians will go hungry," said Patti Whitney-Wise. "Program improvements and consistent outreach have helped our state address its hunger problem."

"We have said time and again that the Oregon Food Bank Network cannot make up for the cuts to SNAP that congress is proposing," said Morgan "SNAP is our first line of defense against hunger, and the proposals being put forward stand to weaken a program that serves more than 800,000 Oregonians, including 299,000 children under 18."

"Oregon runs a model SNAP program that is coupled with the exemplar work of the statewide food bank network. This program is helping us create an environment where the people of Oregon are hunger-free, healthy and thriving," added Whitney-Wise.

"We believe a strong SNAP program is crucial to keep our hunger rate down," added Morgan. "We call on our congressional delegation to protect and strengthen SNAP."

Each year the USDA's Economic Research Service monitors the extent and severity of food insecurity among U.S. households. The reports help states' understand the impact of food security on the well-being of children, adults, families and communities, and the connection to public polices, assistance programs and the economy.

The 2012 Household Food Security in the United States report shows continued high levels of hunger in Oregon. The Oregon legislature has worked hard to put in place an effective support system to move food to hungry Oregonians throughout the state through the Oregon Hunger Response Fund. Funding for effective hunger reduction programs in Oregon are in jeopardy due to proposed federal cuts to SNAP currently being considered by the U.S. Congress.

How to help:
--Write your U.S. Senator or Representative and tell them we need to keep SNAP strong.
--Read Oregon's plan, Ending Hunger Before it Begins, at www.oregonhunger.org
--Donate funds.
--Donate food.
--Visit www.oregonfoodbank.org or www.oregonhunger.org for more ways to help.

Key national highlights.

According to USDA's Household Food Security in the United States, 2012, report:
--An estimated 14.5 percent of Americans were food insecure at least some time in 2012, including 5.7 percent with very low food security.
--Children were food-insecure in 10.0 percent of households with children in 2012, unchanged from 2011.
--In 2012, the typical food-secure household spent 26 percent more on food than the typical food-insecure of the same size and household composition.
--Fifty-nine percent of all food insecure households participated in one or more of the three largest Federal food and nutrition assistance programs during the month prior to the 2012 survey.
--Access the full report at: www.ers.usda.gov

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