Need for Food Assistance Grows as Many Oregonians Struggle to Put Food on the Table

Covid-19 was devastating to the entire country. Along with the deaths, many economic institutions were all but destroyed, and food became a serious issue.

Coming to the topic of food, it should be of no surprise that demand for food assistance absolutely skyrocketed. You would think that, three years after the height of the pandemic, things would have improved. However, that’s not entirely the case; Oregonians still seem to be having trouble putting food on the table.

At the end of the fiscal year, which ended on June 30th, a fiscal report began to be calculated, something people have only recently become privy to, and it revealed many things about the current state of Oregon’s economy. One of the more alarming aspects has been the increased need for food assistance.

From July 2022 to the end of June the next year, Oregon Food Bank, who distributes food to more than 1,400 locations within Oregon, had distributed more than 104 million pounds of produce, grains, and other meal staples. If it seems like an unusually large amount, that’s because it is.  Demand for food assistance has increased by 11% since the year prior. What was once 860,000 Oregon residents visiting food bank partners has now been predicted to be over a million this year. Tens of thousands of Oregonians still struggle to afford food in an economy where grocery stores are announcing record-breaking profits. It makes sense that with inflation comes more people unable to pay those high prices, leading to the need for help from the food bank.

Inflation isn’t the only thing at fault, however. It’s also helped by the fact that pandemic-related food benefits have been halted entirely. Oregon families who received those benefits (also known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP) were granted 70% more in their monthly allotment of federal food aid. This also included ending pandemic benefits for families with very young children, which was paid out in full at the end of October. When the pandemic  food aid benefits ended in March, it slashed the food allotment from $450 to $300. That amount of money lost can make a massive difference, and because of that, many families have found themselves in dire situations.

You also have to bring into account that these pantries are putting in a great amount of effort to bring quality food to the table. It’s not a pantry where you go in and it’s just wall to wall with instant ramen. They partner with local farmers, ranchers, and fishers in order to serve a large variety of foods that can really sustain people. They also try to focus on catering to the multiple ethnic and cultural backgrounds that can be found around Oregon.

Many have criticized the action to end the pandemic food aid, as the belief that we have completely recovered from the pandemic is just not true. People are still struggling, and while extending SNAP indefinitely may not have been the answer, removing it entirely this year wasn’t the answer, either.

Thankfully these trends are not going unnoticed. There are efforts by Oregon public officials to address the issue. US representative Andrea Salinas introduced a bill earlier this month that would double the amount of funding for keeping pantries stocked and hungry Oregonians fed. The bill would also help food banks and local farmers by allowing the US Department of agriculture to purchase directly from them. This is different from the current process, where food is purchased and then sent to the Oregon Food Bank. This would allow the department to cut through that red tape so that they could consider other food options rather than just the lowest costs they can find. Not only can the price remain relatively low, but Oregonians can have quality food to provide for their families.

While nothing has been decided over it so far due to its very recent creation, it’s still an effort that’s being undergone for the benefit of the Oregon people. This bill is a hopeful sign for struggling Oregonians, but it’s never a guarantee, so we’ll have to keep an eye on Oregon representatives to see what else is being done to help the food crisis.


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