New data released today by the US Department of Agriculture indicate that Oregon’s hunger and food insecurity rates remain high compared to the nation as a whole. Although Oregon’s hunger rate has come more into line with other high hunger states, the data do not provide any cause for celebration, according to analysts at the Oregon Center for Public Policy.
“The new data indicate that Oregon’s food insecurity and hunger rates remain high compared to the US as a whole,” said Michael Leachman, policy analyst.
The USDA released the new rates today as part of a larger report on food security in the United States. The new rates cover the period 2000-2002, and were calculated based on data gathered annually by the US Census Bureau through the Food Security Supplement to the Current Population Survey.
The new data indicate that 13.7 percent of Oregon households were “food insecure” at times during the year. “In other words,” said Leachman, “about 1 in 7 households in Oregon sometimes were not sure that everyone in the household would get enough to eat because they did not have enough money or enough access to other resources for help.”
In addition, said Leachman, “the new data show that in 5 percent of Oregon households food insecurity was so severe that one or more household members went hungry at some point during the year.” The USDA report found that, nationally, households experiencing some hunger during the year experienced it on average in 8 or 9 months of the year, Leachman added.
Oregon had the second highest hunger rate in the nation, slightly behind Oklahoma, where the hunger rate was 5.1 percent. Oregon’s food insecurity rate was tied for seventh worst with Idaho. However, because of error ranges around the numbers, Oregon’s precise rank is not known. “In fact,” said Leachman, “states with high hunger rates now have rates that are closer together than in previous years. This new ‘bunching’ of the highest rates means that it is less clear than in past years where Oregon’s rank falls.” Oregon’s rate is higher than the national average, by a statistically significant amount.
Oregon’s hunger and food insecurity rates did not change by a statistically significant amount since the last USDA report was released, covering the 1999-01 period. While the report shows a lower hunger rate for the 2000-02 period over the last report, the change is not statistically significant. That is, the difference may be due only to sampling error.
“Until or unless Oregon’s hunger rate falls by a statistically significant amount, the state cannot be sure that its hunger problem is improving,” said Leachman. “Governor Kulongoski and other policy makers need to stay focused on reducing hunger until it is clear that the rate has fallen substantially.”
The Oregon Center for Public Policy is a Silverton, Oregon-based non-profit research institute that uses research and analysis to advance policies and practices that improve the economic and social prospects of low- and moderate-income Oregonians, the majority of Oregonians.