As neighbors and members of the same communities, we share many of the same hopes and fears and we all want what’s best for our families. One of the fundamental differences between us is that some of us know where our next meal is coming from and some do not. One in six Oregonians face food insecurity. They struggle silently and make heart-wrenching decisions that nobody should have to make. The need for food is essential and immediate. Without the basic security of knowing when you will eat next it is difficult to focus on anything else. The daily fight to survive can consume your life.

Hunger is made worse by the accompanying stigma and silence. Some people don’t want to ask for help because they are ashamed. Parents hide the truth from their children and people don’t tell the whole story to their friends and co-workers.

In Coos Bay, a woman has to choose between buying a pair of pants to be presentable at her new job and buying butane for her camp stove so she can eat a hot meal. In Enterprise, a man has to lie to his children about why he isn’t eating dinner so he’s sure his children will have enough to eat. In Monmouth, a young woman had to leave college and quit her jobs to care for three ailing family members.

It takes courage to stand up and tell your story so that others might better understand what it means to live with food insecurity. We want to thank the women and men who decided to share their thoughts and experiences with us. Their stories provide us with valuable insight and help us better accomplish our mission to eliminate hunger and its root causes. . . because no one should be hungry.

The Voices Focus Group Project

Oregon Food Bank’s annual Voices project brings attention to stories and insights from some of the people we serve. Each year, we travel across the state to talk with food-insecure Oregonians about issues that matter to them.
In 2014, we held focus groups with 85 people who were willing to share their thoughts about and experiences with food insecurity. We worked with the Oregon Food Bank Network’s partner agencies to recruit participants from the clients they served. This year we went to Fairview, Cottage Grove, Coos Bay, Selma, Warrenton, Beaverton, Monmouth, Enterprise, Newberg and Portland.

The stories we heard will help inform our work at Oregon Food Bank and allow us to more effectively and efficiently address the issue of hunger in our state and nation. We discussed the job market and work, participants’ household budget, food and nutrition, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, previously known as food stamps), predatory practices that target low income populations and services provided by the Oregon Food Bank Network.