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.

More and more, people who are doing the things that once kept them on the path of safety and success are still unable to provide enough nutritious food for themselves and their families. These are people who have college degrees, are working full-time jobs, and are keeping a tight eye on the family budget. The Great Recession may have passed, but millions of Americans still struggle with its impact every day. For them, there has been no recovery. 

As businesses slash wages, reduce hours, and eliminate benefits, more people have to spend what little resources they have to cover increasing expenses. The cost of child care, the challenge of transportation (especially in our rural communities), skyrocketing tuition and even routine medical costs have massive impacts on people’s ability to get the food they need to live healthy, productive lives. 

This group of people, the new hungry, now join those who have had the misfortune of a life-changing crisis in the line to receive food assistance—a line that was already much too long. And while we see the generosity of communities, people coming together to try to meet the challenge, rising to answer the call, it is not enough. We need systemic, broad-spectrum change, and we need it now…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 Oregonians facing food insecurity about issues that matter to them.

In 2015, we held focus groups with 97 people who shared their thoughts and experiences with food insecurity. We worked with the Oregon Food Bank Network’s partner agencies around the state to recruit participants from their clients in their communities. This year, we traveled to Philomath, Salem, Reedsport, Drain, Burns, Crane, Newport, Tigard, Springfield, Keno, Medford, Oregon City, Jordan Valley and Portland, including conversations with students from Portland State
University, Oregon’s largest public educational institution.

The stories we heard will help guide our work at Oregon Food Bank and allow us to more effectively and efficiently address the issue of hunger in our state. We discussed household budgets, food and nutrition, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), challenges facing specific communities, minimum wage and services provided by the Oregon Food Bank Network.