CEO, Oregon Food Bank, Portland, Oregon
It’s Oregon’s turn in the limelight. Presidential candidates are blazing a quick trail through the state as Oregonians turn in their ballots with the thought that this time 'round their late-primary vote will count.
Crowds flock to hear the candidates talk about energy, the economy, education and health care. But when it comes to talking about hunger ... they are silent.
That’s why I sent a letter to all of the major candidates ... red and blue ... inviting them to visit Oregon Food Bank ... to discuss their policy recommendations to eliminate hunger in the U.S.
In many ways, our efficient, 108,000-square-foot warehouse symbolizes what’s off kilter in America today. The American dream has failed too many people in our nation.
We are failing our children
Children who are hungry get sick more often, have more difficulty learning in school, and may face long-term, irreversible health problems.
To put it in perspective, yesterday afternoon 72,000 people crowded into and around Tom McCall Waterfront Park to hear Sen. Obama speak. Sen. Obama’s own campaign claimed it was the largest crowd he’s attracted so far.
72,000. That’s how many children in Oregon and southwest Washington eat meals from an emergency food box every month. 72,000. Every month.
We are failing our senior citizens
Seniors often are forced to choose between food and medicine.
We are failing our workers
Family-wage jobs continue to disappear. Forty-seven percent of households seeking emergency food had at least one member who worked. That’s up from 43 percent in 2004 and 37 percent in 1996. These are people who are doing the right things ... working hard ... often more than one job ... but still must seek emergency food boxes to put food on the table.
If you want to boost reading scores and graduation rates ... if you want to increase worker productivity ... if you want to fight sickness and disease ... start by making sure people have enough nutritious food to eat.
Oregon Food Bank is the hub of an efficient, statewide network of 20 regional food banks and 919 hunger-relief agencies, serving all of Oregon as well as southwest Washington. Last fiscal year, Oregon Food Bank Network distributed almost 56 million pounds of food. But this building and these agencies don’t have to exist at all. National policy and priority funding could literally end hunger in a matter of months.
I sent my letter to Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Representative Ron Paul.
The only response we received was a phone call from Sen. Clinton’s national office thanking us for our invitation and telling us her office would keep Oregon Food Bank in mind as it visited the state.
We need to ask the candidates
How can we succeed as a nation when people are hungry? Do you know how many people without insurance in our emergency rooms are there because they haven’t eaten regularly? Do you understand the link between hunger and declining math scores or increasing dropout rates in America?
What are you going to do to eliminate hunger in America?
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