Demand for emergency food boxes in Oregon and Clark County, Wa., is, once again, on the rise, according to the Oregon Food Bank Network's annual statistics, released this week.
The report was released alongside the results from the Food Bank's Hunger Factors Assessment Survey of food-box recipients.
In its 37-county service area distribution of emergency food boxes increased 5 percent – from 752,000 to 792,000 from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008.
That's 40,000 more emergency food boxes – the first significant increase in four years. In some pockets of the state demand was up nearly 30 percent.
"During the previous three years, distribution of emergency food boxes remained at a high but stable level, giving us hope that we were beginning to turn the tide against hunger, but the recent economic slowdown has altered that," said Rachel Bristol, executive director and CEO of Oregon Food Bank.
The OFB Network conducts the Hunger Factors Survey every two years to better understand the factors leading Oregonians to seek emergency food.
During the past year, the number of people receiving an emergency food box increased from an average of 192,000 per month to more than 200,000 per month with an estimated 850,000 people annually needing help from the OFB Network.
The 2008 Hunger Factors Assessment Survey findings show families in Oregon and Clark County face familiar problems: inadequate incomes and job benefits to cope in emergencies and an insufficient public support system.
"This year, though, families are also coping with a weakened economy and rising prices for basic necessities," Bristol said.
For example, the cost of bread increased 26 percent; milk is up 24 percent; eggs are up 55 percent; and the cost of gas is up by 37 percent.
The high cost of food, fuel, healthcare and housing are the leading reasons more people seek emergency food, according to results of the 2008 Hunger Factors Assessment, a biennial survey of emergency food box recipients in Oregon and Clark County, Wash.
• More than half – 52 percent – of the survey respondents cite the high cost of food as a major reason they needed help from a food pantry.
• 40 percent report that the high cost of fuel is a reason for needing emergency food. That's up from 31 percent in 2006 and 21 percent in 2000.
• 23 percent cite high housing costs as a reason for seeking emergency food.
• 17 percent own or were in the process of buying a home. Of those, 47 percent report difficulty making mortgage payments, and 35 percent fear losing their homes to foreclosure.
"The price of gas and food are making it difficult to survive," one survey respondent wrote.
"Food and gas inflation are killing us," wrote another. "We were always close to the edge, but now we're going over."
A food-box recipient wrote, "Cost of everything is going so high. It's hard to come up with gas money for my job search."
The survey also shows that households with children are the largest group receiving emergency food. In an average month, 75,000 children in Oregon and Clark County, Wash., eat meals from an emergency food box.
"For children, hunger isn't only uncomfortable, it's dangerous," Bristol said. "Hunger jeopardizes a child's health, development and future productivity."
According to the survey results, 46 percent of surveyed households had at least one member working
Survey results also show that more people delay health care:
• 58 percent delay medical care. That's up from 53 percent in 2006 and 47 percent in 2002.
• 68 percent delay dental care. That's up from 67 percent in 2006 and 62 percent in 2002.
• 47 percent of households delay filling medical prescriptions due to cost.
• 41 percent of adult food-box recipients had no health insurance.
• 24 percent of children in surveyed households had no health insurance.
For more information go to www.oregonfoodbank.org.