Oregon shows little, if any, progress in reducing food insecurity

News Release
May 17, 2018

Despite a growing economy and declining unemployment, Oregon has made little, if any, progress in reducing the share of Oregonians struggling to put food on the table, according to a new report by the Oregon Center for Public Policy. The sobering news arrives as Congress nears a vote on a bill that would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, making it harder for people to receive food assistance.

Oregon Lags in Fighting Food Insecurity, Oregon Center for Public Policy, May 17, 2018

The report by the non-partisan research institute showed that 527,000 Oregonians — about one in seven — suffered from “food insecurity,” meaning they did not know where their next meal was coming from or went hungry. The report analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the years 2014 to 2016.

While the data showed that food insecurity had declined 3.9 percent from the prior three-year period, the change was not statistically significant, according to Janet Bauer, a policy analyst with the Center.

“We cannot say with confidence that food insecurity has gone down in Oregon,” said Bauer. “It’s just as likely that the situation has not improved as it has marginally improved.”

The report also found that food insecurity is not just a problem for people living below the poverty line. About three in 10 Oregonians struggling to put food on the table made too much income to qualify for federal food assistance, a level that begins well above the federal poverty line.

“It’s clear that many working families are under severe economic pressures, and have to make tough choices about whether to pay the rent, keep the lights on or buy food,” Bauer said.

For those families that do qualify for federal food assistance, life could get more difficult if Congress enacts the current version of the Farm Bill. That bill would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, now serving over 600,000 struggling Oregonians. It would also erode improvements Oregon has made in making the service more effective by layering on paperwork and requirements that simply become barriers for people barely making ends meet.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill as early as today.

“Every member of the Oregon delegation should oppose the current version of the Farm Bill, which is designed to increase food insecurity and suffering,” said Bauer. “We should be investing more in food assistance programs and taking steps to relieve the economic stress of working families.”

The Oregon Center for Public Policy (www.ocpp.org) is a non-partisan, non-profit institute that does in-depth research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues. The Center’s goal is to improve decision making and generate more opportunities for all Oregonians.