The issue of hunger in Lane County is nothing new, but this was an opportunity for the task force to learn about the food system in Lane County and how it relates to hunger.
Food For Lane County Executive Director Beverlee Hughes says Thursday’s hearing was a chance for everyone to come together and share stories.
“Just trying to explain what efforts are going on in our county to help people have healthy food to eat, and to highlight the successes we’re having and probably some of the weaknesses,” Hughes said.
Hughes says one of the major concerns is that hunger is at an all-time high and has been since the recession.
“It did plateau a bit last year, but it plateaued at a very high number,” Hughes said.
She says there are a lot of working families. Some may be working two part-time jobs, under-employed or unemployed. But families aren’t the only ones struggling.
“Food For Lane County has the lowest amount of food in our warehouse than we’ve had ever in our history. We have approximately three weeks of food right now,” Hughes said.
“We as a task force have come to realize that if we’re going to have a long-term impact, we have to address the root causes–and that’s family economic stability,” said Pam Whitney-Wise, Oregon Hunger Task Force Executive Director.
Whitney-Wise is based out of Portland. She says the board, made up of government officials and nonprofit leaders, keeps tabs on each county.
“For us it’s both the immediate today–providing food and looking at how we can help those families tomorrow be able to provide for themselves,” Whitney-Wise said.
Something that did impress Whitney-Wise? Lane County’s focus on fresh, local food.
‘It’s fascinating to hear. So far this morning for instance, the connection between having the infrastructure in their county, which has made it possible to do things like processing product from their farmers,” she said.
The Oregon Hunger Task Force began these sessions about four years ago where they travel to counties and talk with nonprofits and community leaders about their food systems.