Unless you’re wealthy, you sense the economy remains as precarious as an egg on a slanted counter top.
Americans are raised to believe that all one needs do to succeed is keep the nose to the grindstone; if you fall behind, it’s because you’re not working hard enough.
The economy is supposedly improving. For the wealthy, it never dipped, only rose. But down at the grindstone, we’re still getting grit in our faces. Others long to even be at the grindstone.
We don’t talk about it in polite company, so you may not know that your neighbor or the person next to you at church is struggling to keep food on the table.
The stereotype of poor people as lazy or feeling entitled applies to very few and makes admitting need even more painful for others. Jobs have been lost, hours cut, pay cut. Some are supporting grown children, parents or others. If you’ve not had to wonder where tomorrow’s food will come from or what your family will do if you lose your job or house, sit in your unheated car some night and try to imagine it.
Since 2007, the poverty rate in Oregon has increased by 33 percent while requests for emergency food boxes in Benton and Linn counties have increased by 35 percent, Mike Gibson, director of Linn-Benton Food Share told me.
“If 17 percent of Oregonians are below the poverty line of $23,550 for a family of four,” he said, “many more feel like they’re living in poverty. Even if they’re making slightly more, they’re just getting by.”
Seven out of 10 families in poverty have one or more household members employed. What’s wrong with this picture?
From July through September, local food pantries saw a 8.5 percent increase in requests this year over the same period in 2012.
Nationally, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) benefits decreased this month, which means two or three days without meals for some.
Many will need to supplement the monthly food box they’re allowed at local pantries with extras from there, if enough is donated.
But, the poor economy has affected pantries when need is greatest. Individuals have less to give; the amount of food LBFS gets from the Oregon Food Bank is down, and so are commodities from the USDA. Food companies practicing just-in-time production have less excess to donate.
Locally, organizations, individuals, businesses, farms, and low-income folks themselves are pitching in.
Local grocers donate dairy products, produce and meats frozen at the pull dates through Food Share’s Fresh Alliance Program.
Stahlbush Island Farms donates tons of frozen vegetables and OSU research plots provide fresh produce, according to Susan James, gleaner coordinator for LBFS. Twenty-five farms opened their fields to gleaners this year.
More than 7,900 low-income gleaners in Benton and Linn counties gleaned 2 million pounds of food so far this year. Gleaners, who also glean for those who can’t, share canning tips and recipes as they work and are less likely to need emergency food.
Hunger exists year-round, but we’re more aware of it during harvest holidays. The annual Holiday Food Drive sponsored by the Friends of LBFS distributed boxes to more than 1,350 people last year. At least the same need is expected this year.
While food donations are always welcome, so is money. For every dollar donated, LBFS can distribute up to 15 pounds of food. And LBFS has operating expenses year round (warehouse, trucks, fuel, drivers).
You can donate through Network for Good at www.linnbentonfoodshare.org or send a check to LBFS, 545 S.W. Second St., Suite A, Corvallis, 97333.
May Thanksgiving be truly meaningful for everyone.