RECENTLY ON TOL:
- A tumblr site dedicated to the people and places that make up Oregon and Southwest Washington.
My name is Peter Lawson. I am the Branch Coordinator of Southeast Oregon Regional Food Bank in Ontario, Oregon (a program of Oregon Food Bank). We supply emergency food pantries and other allied programs in Malheur and Harney Counties-distributing nearly 635,000 lbs of food to 14 (and counting) different local agencies.
Geographically, Ontario itself is a small rural community that sits on the Oregon/Idaho Border (approximately 50 miles away from Boise, Idaho). While our Idaho neighbors have seen a lot of growth (economic and otherwise) over the past decade, our region has been plagued by a chronic overall poverty rate of 18% and a childhood poverty rate of nearly 25%. Additonally, recent unemployment figures show Malheur County at 12% and Harney County at just over 20%. We are also hampered by a lack of Oregon Media as the Oregonian no longer delivers here and Oregon television stations are only available as a premium option by local cable providers.
While hunger is a challenge for our colleagues across the Oregon Food Bank Network, our region is particularly hard hit-seeing increases in demand for emergency food boxes jump more than 30% from 2007 to 2008 (the increase from 2004 is even higher).
In terms of those seeking assistance, the stories resonate with themes of hard choices to make (fuel or health insurance vs food is common), few living wage opportunities (we've had 5 major employers either close the doors or substantially reduce operations in the last few years), and few immediate prospects.
Thankfully, we have the support of Oregon Food Bank, the Oregon Food Bank Network, and an AMAZING local community of caring citizens and volunteers who recognize that, with hunger affecting 1 in 9 families in the area, the people they serve are ultimately their friends and neighbors.
Additionally, we have ongoing collaborations with many of our social service providers, the local Chambers of Commerce, Treasure Valley Community College, school districts, etc. We believe that, in this day and age, hunger is not a problem of "us and them", it is something we must all work on together if we are ever to end hunger and its root causes in Rural Oregon and across the state...because no-one should be hungry!
posted 4 years ago
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