New Study Shows Even as Economy Boomed, More Oregonians Struggled to Put Food on Table

By Christopher Onstott

The Oregon Center for Public Policy this morning released new data showing that a vast group of Oregonians got left behind when the state's economy heated up in 2012.

"Since the recovery from the Great Recession began, Oregon has seen the largest increase in food insecurity," the OCPP report says. "Comparing the most recent period for which there is data (2013-15) to the early years of the recovery (2010-12), food insecurity in Oregon spiked 18.4 percent. That increase was the highest among all states. Meanwhile, food insecurity decreased nationally."

Drawing on U.S. Department of Agriculture data, OCPP found that according to the latest data, from 2014, about as many Oregonians were "food insecure"—meaning they are not sure where their next meal is coming from—as lived in the state's largest city, Portland.

The report draws on U.S. Department of Agriculture data and shows that Oregon has the sixth highest rate of food insecurity in the country and the eighth highest rate of hunger—Appalachia comes to the Cascades.

The measurement is a reflection of the urban-rural divide in Oregon. Even as Portland, Bend and cities in the Willamette Valley have prospered, much of the state has not.

In its recommendations, OCPP, a left-leaning think tank that moved its headquarters from Silverton to Portland this year, recommends Oregon lawmakers expand employment opportunities support for childcare, increase temporary financial assistance for struggling families and, at the top of their list, focus on housing.

"Oregon is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis, with rising rents squeezing the budgets of many Oregon families," the report says. "To keep a roof over their heads, cash-strapped families cut back where they can, which can include skimping on food."

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