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Food industry helps the hungry

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Monday, December 01, 2008

STATEWIDE Job loss, higher food costs and lower wages are forcing more and more Oregonians to turn to food banks for help. According to Oregon Food Bank spokesman Mike Moran, demand has gone up 5% across the state, with areas such as Ontario and some coastal communities seeing demand spike 20% or more.

On average, 200,000 people per month are receiving emergency food boxes from food banks in Oregon and Clark County, Wash. “There aren’t a lot of reasons to believe the need will go down,” says Moran.

With such a surge in demand, donations from the food industry, which account for about 60% of what the food bank receives, take on more urgency. So far this year, Moran reports industry donations are up over last year, after a 10% to 15% drop from previous years.

New participation from some key businesses has helped. Moran says that Amy’s Kitchen in Medford and national wholesale distributor United Natural Foods have become great new contributors, along with progress that the nonprofit Farmers Ending Hunger (FEH) has made.

Last year, FEH donated 800,000 pounds in commodities and this year that should grow to more than 1.5 million pounds, according to executive director John Burt. FEH  has a dozen farmers contributing and this year several more key donors were secured, says Burt.

Three Mile Canyon in Boardman, Oregon’s largest dairy operation, is now donating 25 cows per month, which are then processed into ground beef by Walt’s Wholesale Meats in Washington State. Burt figures that’s enough to make about 440,000 hamburgers per year.

Another new program launched this year now accepts donations of small quantities of wheat, which has boosted the overall contribution.

Next for FEH are plans to tap the giving potential of growers in the Willamette Valley, along with launching a new public awareness campaign, because as significant as the food industry’s contribution is, it isn’t enough.                

ROBIN DOUSSARD


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