More than one hundred food-bankers from every corner of Oregon converged on Salem to ask legislators to invest in the state’s partnership with the Oregon Food Bank Network by making food a priority.
The request comes at a time when demand for emergency food is at record levels and rising. Emergency food box distribution has increased 17 percent to 917,000 emergency food boxes from fiscal year July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2010. That’s 130,000 more food boxes than two years ago since the beginning of the Great Recession.
“We expect the need for emergency food to continue at record levels for months to come,” said Jon Stubenvoll, director of advocacy, Oregon Food Bank. “It takes time for Oregonians who have lost their jobs, savings, health care and homes to get on their feet again.”
During the past two years, much of the food that Oregon Food Bank has received has come through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s bonus commodity programs.
But USDA is forecasting a 66 percent decline in that source of food,” said Stubenvoll. “At the same time, we’re also seeing donations from national food companies decline, forcing OFB to increase the percentage of food it purchases to supplement donations.
“The increase in demand for emergency food coupled with declining food donations is stretching Oregon Food Bank and the Oregon Food Bank Network to the limit,” said Lucinda Tate, Outreach Ministry Coordinator. “Today, we asked legislators to make food a priority,” she said.
The state partners with the Oregon Food Bank Network through the General Fund Food Program, Stubenvoll explained.
“The General Fund Food Program helps leverage private-sector community support for the Oregon Food Bank Network,” said Ryan McCambridge, chair of the Oregon Food Bank Network and program coordinator Linn-Benton Food Share. “For example, the funds help the Oregon Food Bank Network acquire bulk food and the equipment to move food and organize volunteers to repack bulk food into family-size packages.
During this biennium the fund leveraged more than $1.7 million in local funding for food banks, 6.6 million pounds in local food donations and 53,000 volunteer hours.
The Governor’s Recommended Budget carries over last year’s cuts to the General Fund Food Program – a 7.6 percent reduction from the $2 million approved by the 2009 Legislature.
To respond to increased demand for emergency food, the OFB Network is asking the legislature for an investment of $350,000 above the Governor’s Recommended Budget in the General Fund Food Program.
“This investment will allow the OFB Network to continue at current capacity under the program and acquire one million pounds of additional food to feed hungry Oregonians,” Stubenvoll said. About the Oregon Food Bank Network
The Oregon Food Bank Network is a cooperative statewide coalition of 20 regional food banks working to eliminate hunger and its root causes by distributing donated food to agencies serving low-income people and through advocacy and public education about the underlying causes of hunger.