Food is the basic need by Pat Farr

 

At a time when jobs are scarce, job security is questionable and many people with jobs are “underemployed,” (which translates to: “not enough income to support their household”), this time of year families are facing the added seasonal burden of long hours of darkness, rain and freezing cold.

Many folks are striving to make ends meet:  struggling to pay rent, increased utility costs, transportation, child-care, and the many other bills that have to be paid or you lose the service. Due to the pressing need of these services, the basic need of adequate food often falls to the end of the list of checks to be written.  People go hungrier this time of the year.

As many of us prepare for the holidays with special meals, gatherings and celebration, it is easy to lose track of the large numbers among us who are not able to meet the basic need of feeding their family.

The recession we are living through has a serious impact on the citizens of Oregon and Lane County.  People who have never needed help before are finding themselves in need of assistance.  Many are forced to make the choice between food or medicine, food or shelter, food or heat.  The path of least resistance when paying the bills all too often leads to cutting back on groceries and nutritional meals.

The numbers are alarming:  according to USDA statistics , Oregon ranks third in the nation in citizens suffering from very low food security.  One out of every three children in Lane County will have eaten from an emergency food source at least once this year—nearly one third of all emergency food recipients are under 18 years of age.

For most of us, being hungry means that we are looking forward to our next meal.  “Very low food security” means not knowing where or when your next meal will be.  While we consider state and national statistics it’s important to know that people going hungry are all around us—where we live, work, shop and go to school.

In Lane County we are blessed with a large number of emergency pantries where people can supplement their income with donated food.  Local pantries exist throughout our communities:  serving people from Florence to Oakridge to Cottage Grove and all places in between.  It’s easy to donate food through food drives, churches and other agencies.  FOOD for Lane County, with its professional staff of volunteers and paid employees, coordinates a remarkable distribution effort daily.  You can help.  Be aware of local drives for food around the community, and note that one of the easiest ways to help is by participating in the Letter Carriers’ Food Drive, usually held on the first two Saturdays in December (place non-perishable food beside your mail box for carrier pick-up).

Here in Lane County, our weakened economy along with the impending winter and continually rising prices have contributed to a larger number people needing help with food now more than ever before.

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