Many people assume that hunger is confined to small sectors of our society, in certain faraway neighborhoods. But the real faces of hunger in Oregon are hundreds of thousands of our neighbors who struggle invisibly every day. Their stories show the toll that hunger takes on an estimated 270,000 people who, in an average month, eat food from an emergency food box provided by the Oregon Food Bank Network.
Every day, they face choices that no one should ever have to. In Salem, a man has to choose between an adequate diet, his prescription medications and the canned formula that his seriously ill wife requires, because he can’t afford them all. In Seaside, the wife of a disabled veteran wonders how she can start over when she doesn’t even have enough money to file for bankruptcy.
Their stories reveal disturbing truths about our great, but imperfect, society and force us to confront our shared fears. They make us doubt the common assumption that most individuals can escape from poverty through good personal choices. They show that people can work hard for decades without ever achieving one of the most fundamental aspects of the American dream: basic economic security.
We sincerely appreciate the honesty and courage of those who shared their experiences with us. Stories about their lives provide valuable insight and help us better accomplish our mission to eliminate hunger and its root causes … because no one should be hungry.
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 October and November of 2012, 44 people who received emergency food in the last year attended Voices focus groups in Colton, Fossil, Klamath Falls, Pendleton, Portland, Salem and Seaside. Participants were recruited randomly by our partner agencies. This year, our discussions focused on food and nutrition, the economy and the job market, family economic security, civic engagement, and community.