Hunger Carries into New Year
Impact worsened by low wages, high costs
Chris Thomas | 12/23/2015, 1:06 p.m.
One in five Oregonians faces a New Year in which he or she will rely on food from a food pantry or soup kitchen, according to a new survey of people who receive food assistance.
The Oregon Food Bank survey shows that 36 percent of food recipients said they visit their local food pantry regularly - at least 12 times a year, up 5 percentage points from just a few years ago.
While the survey did find that more people are working than in the previous years, they're just not making enough money to support their families, according to Susannah Morgan, Oregon Food Bank chief executive.
The folks who are accessing food assistance who are also actively seeking work as unemployed workers has fallen from 23 percent in 2012 to 16 percent today, she said.
Another trend this year compared to previous years is that more people age 65 and older are food-bank clients. One-third of those surveyed said food bank assistance has made the difference in being able to pay a utility bill. Almost as many (29 percent) cited high housing costs as a factor in their inability to make ends meet.
Morgan attended the recent Oregon Leadership Summit and cited one speaker's comment that Oregon is a "job-creation machine."
"This gives me real hope for the future, in thinking that we have the possibility of creating those jobs, those family-wage jobs," she said. "But he also said there has not been much movement on poverty."
Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed said they worry "often" or "always" about where their next meal is coming from.
Morgan said a combination of low earnings and high debt lands people who never thought they'd be in this situation at their local food pantry. The source of the debt, for 39 percent of those surveyed, was medical bills.
The survey is online at oregonfoodbank.org.
Chris Thomas is a reporter with Oregon News Service.