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Sep-14-2009 22:30printcomments

Oregon Food Bank Stretches to Meet 'Staggering' Demand (AUDIO)

About one-third of emergency food box recipients are either retired or looking for work.

Oregon Food Bank hauling supplies
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(PORTLAND, Ore.) - Food is heading out the doors of Oregon Food Bank network locations almost as fast as it's coming in. There's been a 13 percent increase in the number of emergency food boxes distributed for the fiscal year that ended in June. The boxes contain enough to feed a family for several days.

In seven of the state's counties (Clatsop, Columbia, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Tillamook and Washington), food requests are up more than 20 percent.

Food Bank director Rachel Bristol calls the demand 'staggering,' but she says the system has managed to keep up with it - so far.

"We're now in the neighborhood of 900,000 people turning to our emergency food system in the year. It's pretty phenomenal."

Bristol says the state's high unemployment rate is only part of the problem. Low wages are another.

"Over the last five years, we've seen a very steady growth in the number of working poor that have had to turn to our network for help. Nearly 50 percent of the families have at least one adult working - in many cases, working more than one job - or two parents working."

Bristol says about one-third of emergency food box recipients are either retired or looking for work, but the largest increase in food requests has come from families with children.

Bristol says they expect the demand to continue to climb, especially as unemployment benefits run out for some, as early as next month. Unemployment in Oregon has hovered around 12 percent for the past six months.

There are some bright spots in the Food Bank's annual report: they've seen increases in the numbers of volunteers and have received more federal commodity foods from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The annual report is online at


Special thanks to Oregon News Service
Reporter: Chris Thomas

Click the play button below for the audio report:


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Gary September 16, 2009 6:31 pm (Pacific time)

Your readers may want to visit - a site that helps diminish hunger by enabling backyard gardeners to share their crops with neighborhood food pantries. The site is free both for the food pantries and the gardeners using it. Over 900 food pantries nationwide are already on it and more are signing up daily. It includes preferred delivery times, driving instructions to the pantry as well as (in many cases) information about store bought items also needed by the pantry (for after the growing season). If your community has a food pantry, make sure they register on

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