by Courtney Crossfield
State and federal statistics show that Oregon has the highest rate of child hunger within the nation. There are currently around 30 percent of children who are food insecure, meaning they do not have adequate access to nutritional food. Oregon also leads the United States in food stamp use.
According to Oregon Hunger, in 2009 Lane County’s population was 337,878, and of that population, 53,385 (15.8 percent) people were living in poverty. Of the total population, 65,718 were children 0-18 years of age and 9,830 of those children were living in poverty; that’s 15 percent of children living with an insufficient source of food.
In 2009, 70,657 individuals in Lane County received hunger and food insecurity relief through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAPs). Every month, an average of 64,454 people received food stamps in Lane County.
As of October 2012 82,650 people received food stamps in Lane County.
According to the United States Census Bureau there are 114.7 million households in this country, which are “all potential gathering places for people to celebrate the holiday (of Thanksgiving).” The value of U.S. imported live turkeys from January to July this year is $12.1 million.
Just one of those dollars donated from turkey revenue can provide three meals at FOOD for Lane County (FFLC). With a vision to eliminate hunger within Lane County and a set of core values as their backbone, FFLC strives to create access to food and programs constructed to assist those with low incomes to improve their ability to sustain substantial food; in other words, to become sufficient within their own power.
“We accomplish this by soliciting, collecting, rescuing, growing, preparing and packaging food for distribution through a network of more than 100 social service agencies and programs;” they broadcast on their website.
Emergency food boxes, shelters, meal sites, rehabilitation facilities, nutrition education, gleaning, and community gardens are included within these programs. Having established partnerships with human service agencies and programs, FFLC has come a long way since its start in 1984 with one staff-member, one volunteer, and five board members.
Weekday afternoon volunteers assemble at the FFLC kitchen to help ready meals for the Family Dinner Program, repack bulk products, and sort the donations, as well as other tasks needed. Meals are served in the Dining Room Monday through Thursday. Warehouse volunteers help with cleaning, loading and unloading, sorting donated food, and assisting with pickups and deliveries.
Their efforts year-round go into overload during the holidays. With the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot starting at 9 am at Skinner Butte Park, the slogan “Be a trotter – feed a family!” takes effect when $5 from every entry fee goes to FFLC. During this time, food is also being collected and donated to partner program events, like Whiteaker Community Dinners’ Free Community Thanksgiving Dinner this Thursday from 11 am to 3 pm.
Do you want a way to help provide others with a Thanksgiving meal this year? Anything helps! Drop by any of these nonprofits with whatever traditional food you can afford to donate:
Eugene Salvation Army, 640 W 7th Avenue
The Eugene’s Salvation Army will provide at least 100 families with a Traditional Thanksgiving Food Box, including all that goes in it. “Additional emphasis will also be given to larger families as well,” says Thomas Morrow. He shares that the social services director, Tina Fulp, who takes care of food needs all throughout the year, has done an excellent job working for the clients coming to The Salvation Army.
St. Matthews Episcopal Church, 4110 River Road
Partners St. Matthews Episcopal Church and local school Awbrey Park Elementary work to bring Thanksgiving to about 30 families around the Eugene area. Turkeys are purchased by the church, while the congregation donates all other needed foods. After the church finishes putting together the dinner bags, the school picks them up and delivers them to those families in need.
St. Peters Catholic Church, 1150 Maxwell Road
St. Peters Catholic Church and the St. John Vianney Secular Franciscan Order host their first Free Community Thanksgiving Dinner this year, welcome to all. “Anyone who is alone, with or without family and friends, is welcome to share a delicious home cooked meal, a warm place, and meet new friends,” Patty Roland enthuses as she explains the event. “Since we announced our plan, we have felt an outpouring of love from the St. Peters Parishioners and the community. The donations of food keep coming, and offers to cook and prepare food (do as well).” She goes on to express how grateful the church is for the generosity received in the forms of donations as well as serving and cleaning up. She believes it is a joint act of love. Everyone is invited to join on Thanksgiving Day, at St. Peters Catholic Church, with dinner being served from noon to 5 pm.
Trinity Methodist Church, 440 Maxwell Road
FISH (Friends In Service to Humanity) is able to provide families who request help with three days’ worth of food, once a month. If a family or individual needs help all they must do is call FISH between 10 am and 3 pm Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. The food baskets must then be picked up between 2:30 and 3:30 pm. St. Mary’s Episcopal Church takes their wicker basket of food donations up every Sunday at 9:30 am to be blessed, then coordinator Caroline Grant transports this to the FISH Food Cupboard at Trinity Methodist Church.
Food Not Bombs, 8th and West Park Street
This Friday a hot meal is available after 2 pm, as is every Friday through Food Not Bombs. “We will probably be serving potatoes, and maybe gravy! We serve potatoes almost every week because we are thankful every week for all that we have.” (Eugene FNB email coordinator).
American Jewish World Service writes thought-provokingly in “A Reading for the Thanksgiving Table”:
Thanksgiving “is a day of gratitude—for the blessings of health, safety, friends and family, and for the abundance before us. In many American homes it is customary to say words of blessing and thanks before eating the Thanksgiving meal. But even as our gratitude overflows, our hearts are heavy with the knowledge that more than one billion people today cannot access these blessings. Let us hasten a day without hunger by remembering, at this Thanksgiving meal and every time we sit down to eat, that gratitude should always be a motivational emotion, driving us to pursue a better world for others.”