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Oregon: Ending Hunger Before It Begins

| December 14, 2009

Courtesy Oregon Food Bank (http://oregonfoodbank.org)

Courtesy Oregon Food Bank (http://oregonfoodbank.org)

On December 4th, a crowd of over 100 community activists, scholars, elected officials gathered in Salem, Oregon to spend a day focusing on “Ending Hunger Before it Begins”. The conference was hosted by Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and OHTF, the Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force (a long time MAZON grantee). I had the pleasure of delivering the morning keynote, which will soon be available on MAZON’s YouTube page.

One thing I greatly admire as a national anti-hunger champion is watching state-advocates move the needle against the battle of hunger. Oregon is a real special model. For years, they were at the top of the USDA’s most food-insecure states. Much of the poverty and hunger resides inland and in the rural areas of the state. Patti Whitney-Wise of the OHTF, one of the most dedicated souls in the field, and her colleagues were able to take advantage of an “alignment of forces” when the current governor and legislature took office to make hunger a number one priority. Gradually, Oregon fell down the “food-insecure index” and is now doing amazing innovative outreach for SNAP (food stamps) and other entitlements that have been the “front-line against hunger” especially with the epic recession and high unemployment rates. Oregon is a state model that other states can learn from from. Rather than just waiting for the federal government to reach down to them, they have mobilized from the grass-roots upwards to fight hunger.

Courtesy Oregon Food Bank (http://oregonfoodbank.org/)

Courtesy Oregon Food Bank (http://oregonfoodbank.org/)

The conference set some common agreed-upon principles and areas of focus, including: Addressing Food Insecurity and Rural Hunger; Connecting Health and Hunger: The link between Nutrition and Food Insecurity; Cultivating Equitable Food Systems and Community Based Solutions; Family Economic Stability: Assets and Opportunities; and Maximizing Federal Food Programs for Underserved Oregonians.

My kudos to all the participants and to activists in Oregon who are making a difference for hungry children, seniors and families.

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