Voices From “Hunger In Oregon”

Nearly 15 years ago, Oregon had the highest rate of hunger in the nation. Today, the percentage of people facing hunger today is nearly as high as it was in 2000. In OPB’s series “Hunger In Oregon,” Oregonians shared their experience getting food on the table. Here are excerpts from those stories.

 

 I went from $650 in benefits to just over $200. My income increased slightly as I am no longer a full-time student. I have to be extremely mindful now. We are eating less meat (this is good), more beans. I find we are eating less produce. I bought a bread maker and am no longer purchasing store bought bread.

— Tori G., Corvallis

 I’m poor, and they do give you a little status when shopping in a nice store like Fred Meyer — you can still “feel” like a middle-class person, even if you’re very far from being middle class!

— Peter White, Chiloquin

My husband passed in January and then in July I was laid off. I almost went into foreclosure and if it wasn’t for SNAP I probably would have starved. I didn’t get much but it kept me in peanut butter and bread long enough to pull myself out of poverty.

— Darlene Wheeler, Coos Bay

Courtesy of Vesna Stone

I am a food stamps eligibility worker. The most distress comes from higher education students who have to meet extra eligibility rules in order to (qualify for) SNAP. They are the hidden population that is not being discussed in regular coverage on hunger. Our students go hungry every summer.

— Vesna Stone, Corvallis

Courtesy of Eldon Rollins

We shop at Winco in Longview. Sometimes we are forced to buy things at local, more expensive stores. We started going to food banks to make it through the month. We have seen no “recovery”. It is not right to cut [food stamps] and to let the 1 percent go without paying taxes.

— Eldon Rollins, Coquille

[I shop at] Fred Meyer Hawthorne once a week. It’s not convenient. I don’t have a car, so I need a ride to get there. [Benefits are] gone by the end of the second week in the month. I use my monthly income from SSI after I run out.

— Victoria Deeks, West Linn

My family has a lot of food allergies, so it’s very important that we obtain the right ingredients for making meals. We eat less and now scrounge or ask people for money to try to have enough food for the month. Sometimes we just go without.

— Michael Davis, Portland

The SNAP program supplements my disability income. I already eat a very spartan diet — as healthy as I can, but as cheaply as possible. My “big” splurge on meat comes in the form of cheap hot dogs, otherwise, my protein is supplied by eggs, dairy and beans.

— George Dennison, Lake Oswego

Amanda Peacher

Our little market is very convenient for our local people. I’m here almost every day. Tonight I’m cooking fry burgers. I’m not working right now because of health reasons. It would be nice to get more [SNAP benefits]. But beggars can’t be choosers, you know?

— Jasmine Caldera, Warm Springs

I have a number of friends and colleagues with college age kids who are signing up for food stamps because they qualify as low income, yet are already surviving on student loans alone to get through school. Food stamps should keep you from starving - you are not starving when you receive plenty of student loan money to live on.

— Nicole Pucci, Oregon City

Amanda Peacher

I received [SNAP benefits} the 9th of every month. I buy rice, beans, oil and oil first. In the middle of the month I’ll buy vegetables or fruit. In the last week of the month we go back and buy more. Sometimes when we don’t have any more food stamps we go to the food bank. Last week we went to the store and we spent $200! It would be really hard to feed our family without it.

— Gabriela Diaz, Madras

Living on minimum wage is in no way sufficient to meet the needs of families. Even single people without children can find it impossible. It’s hard to determine which things are the most difficult to afford, because it’s such a question of priority and necessity. What’s more is that those things can change in a moment. Without food stamps and other assistance it can be a real hardship.

— Kristina Brewington, Albany

Amanda Peacher

[SNAP is] a lifeline for people in this area. Nothing else matters if you can’t feed your family. It just seems like that’s such a tenuous existence. It’s a line of defense every week, every month. I do wish you could use it for things like personal hygiene products that are just as critical.

— Deb Goosev, Gilchrist

Courtesy of Perry Perkins

I spent my entire childhood on food stamps (grew up with a single, disabled mother in Rockwood, OR). Obviously, I owe a great debt to the SNAP program, but at the same time I feel there are some flaws in the system. My personal milk-crate is that, like any type of assistance, anywhere, provision is at best a (very) short solution without education. Things like SNAP, and food boxes, etc., are certainly important, but they are not nearly as effective without education on how to best use them: planning, shopping, and preparing healthy foods that don’t come in a box or bag.

— Perry Perkins