Families already straining to sit down to regular meals face even more intense challenges during the holiday season. As a community, let’s help mitigate that misery.
One barometer of local well-being is traffic at local food banks. It’s booming, they report. More people are showing up in need of basic food. And with the looming end of special government benefits early next year, the need in Malheur County is expected to grow.
The Oregon Food Bank, the prime nonprofit source of food and support for the hungry in the state, said during the peak of the pandemic, 1.7 million Oregonians needed food help. With the flush of government aid last year, that dropped to 1.2 million – and now that is moving back up.
We simply can’t look the other way when people are starving. Who cares what is their reason?
A chief factor is inflation. You know what’s happened to grocery prices and the cost of a gallon of gas. A buck doesn’t buy as much as it did. For households with set or limited incomes, an increase in the cost of a grocery items means leaving one other item behind. Choices get made.
On top of that, the Oregon Food Bank and local organizations serving the hungry are getting less in donations. Inflation, too, has hit those who once could afford to be generous but now have to tend to their own needs. That means the groups trying to keep people fed themselves have less to work with to buy and deliver basic foods.
This is especially pronounced during the holiday season. It’s a season of giving, of course, and families with tight budgets don’t want that Christmas tree barren of gifts for the kids. What grocery budget there is gets whittled to afford Christmas.
And finally, there is the challenge that rural life holds for single parents trying to raise their kids – child care. It is hard to come by and it can be expensive. Sometimes, a job pays just enough to cover that daycare bill. That makes a trip to the grocer more stressful.
Those running food banks say the need runs through all demographics – and throughout the county. Mobile food pantries regularly trek to Jordan Valley, Harper and Annex to put groceries into local hands of those needing help.
In today’s era, in farming country, no one should be missing meals. Certainly, no child should endure a day without breakfast or lunch. But it’s happening – and prideful parents and the children themselves too often keep their hunger to themselves.
What’s that like? For those of us who can stock a refrigerator with milk and eggs and produce and load up the shelves with canned goods, hunger is a stranger. Try an experiment to get a sense of what is happening in too many Malheur County homes.
Skip a meal. Just one. You won’t starve. But if you usually eat a robust breakfast, head out the door on empty. Is dinner your big meal of the day? Just once, head to bed without it. If you are like most people, you’ll get a bit of a gnawing feeling in your stomach. Imagine, if you try this, living with that day by day.
We know there are a lot of demands on each of you this time of year. But we simply can’t look the other way when people are starving. Who cares what is their reason? It is a humanitarian need that a giving community should and can address.
What can you do?
• Donate money. The Oregon Food Bank is one place to start. It has a branch in Ontario that serves Malheur and Harney counties. Because of its size, the Oregon Food Bank can buy in quantity and get better prices on food. You can donate online by going to the Oregon Food Bank website (oregonfoodbank.org/ontario).
• Donate money locally. There are food pantries in Vale and Nyssa. School districts such as Ontario, Four Rivers and Adrian run their own food pantries. Imagine. Food pantries in schools. The need is that profound. You can find the list of groups needing help through the Oregon Food Bank website.
• Donate food. While showing up with a case of canned goods is helpful, those running local food banks know what the needs are. Check with them: What do you need? Help the one in your town or find one to assist at the website oregonfoodfinder.org.
No matter which path you chose, act today. Every dollar makes a difference. The Oregon Food Bank says it can provide enough food for a person to have three meals for just $1. Imagine the good you do by giving $25 dollars (75 meals) or $100 (300 meals). No child, no grandparent, no single mother working two jobs should go hungry a single day. – LZ