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Searching for answers, preparing for action

March 1, 2012
Emergency food box recipient In late January, during the height of the pummeling rainstorms that swept across Oregon, hundreds of hunger-relief experts gathered at Oregon State University for the 2012 Food Security Summit, which was presented by Oregon Food Bank, the Oregon Hunger Task Force, Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and OSU.

The summit brought together participants from across our region in a powerful showing of the most up-to-date knowledge and approaches to ending the alarming rate of hunger in Oregon. And while job loss and the state’s high rate of joblessness were at the forefront of the conversation, participants were eager to share information about forward-thinking strategies and programs that are making connections between farmers, retailers, health care organizations, government officials and food banks.

For OFB, the Food Security Summit brought to light many important issues and areas where we can make a significant impact in our region. Highlights included:

• A new SNAP participation report by the Department of Human Services shed a light on the demographics of those seeking hunger relief. The report shows that more  single men age 18-24 are collecting SNAP because of losses in construction and manufacturing. This demographic is aging into adulthood with no work at the same time their parents are struggling.

• A strong interest in gleaning and a stronger connection to food sources and “giving back” were evident at well-attended workshops.

• Leading Oregon organizations that are focused on health care — including Kaiser Permanente and Providence — were in attendance and showed a commitment to exploring the intersection between health and hunger.

• Childhood hunger expert Dr. Deborah Frank explored effects of hunger on learning and development, as well as a look at transpor- tation equity and the costs associated with access to emergency food in rural areas.

• And representatives from Oregon’s farming and business community were on hand to discuss corporate responsibility. A well-attended session featuring representatives from New Seasons, Burgerville and Thompson Farms underscored the need for increasing nutritional quality and supporting locally sourced food to
create a healthier food system.

It was an energizing and invigorating summit, and we thank the participants, speakers and sponsors for their dedication to exploring new ways to fight hunger in Oregon.
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