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May 19th, 2008
07:22 PM ET

The candidates in Oregon... and hunger, too


Rachel Bristol
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?


Filed under: Aid workers • Food crisis • Raw Politics
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Maggie

    Hunger is a result of poverty.

    Poverty in this country (and all over the world) is caused by a lack of education. When you have a city like Detroit with a 25% graduation rate, Washington D.C. with a 50% graduation rate, and West Palm Beach, right across the lake from Palm Beach, one of the weathiest areas in the country, with a 50-60% graduation rate, you are going to have poverty.

    When you have 60% of the black women having babies without the benefit of marriage, 45% of the hispanic women, and 25% of the white women, you are going to have a lack of education and therefore poverty. Children coming out of these homes with frequently uneducated mothers and absent fathers, rampent alcohol and drug abuse, are not coming to school in an emotional state to learn. These kids are sad, depressed and ANGRY because of the envoirnment in which they find themselves.

    I've been a volunteer tutor for black children in Florida for five years, so I know what I'm talking about. I can listen to a child read for the first time, and I can tell how much time he spends watching television or playing computer games on school nights, and which children are not allowed to watch television only on weekends and then selectively.
    Some children do not even have books to read at home. It breaks your heart to have a fifth grade student in front of you that can't even read a first grade book and can't add without counting on his fingers.
    And it's not because they're dumb.

    Not only is poverty the end result here, but also crime. How do you get a decent paying job without at least a high school education? So what do they do if they can't get a job? They turn to crime for their income. Is it any wonder that Detroit has one of the highest crime rates in the county?

    We have a crisis in this country, because of a lack of education and opportunities, we are raising a whole generation of home grown terrorists. And we had better start taking this seriously, or it's only going to get worse. We have tro help these kids and break this cycle. It's time to get off the merryground. I am hoping we will have a new president who can lead the way.

    May 20, 2008 at 11:22 am |
  2. john

    Hillary knows she lost THE RACE AREADY! even if she wins the rest of the state and Florida she still will be behind OBAMA so WHY DOES SHE STILL WANT TO STAY IN THE RACE? I heard 2 reasons, one she might want a position as the top head honcho in the democratic party or she want to build as much negative against OBAMA , divide the party so when November comes OBAMA loses to McCain and she can look like a hero with the says " I TOLD YOU SO" What about Michigan she won there too? Really? OBAMA was not even in the ticket, so how can she claimed she won. That's like me playing golf with TIGER WOOD. He does not show up and I continue playing and say that I won. You will be looking at me like I'm crazy. What about Florida Obama was on the ticket and she won there too? Really? Florida broke the rules so Hillary and Obama didn't campaign in Florida. That's like The Lakers playing against Miami for the finals, the game is tide 100 to 100 in the 4th quarter with 10second to go and Miami do something that break the rules so the referee charge Miami with a technical stop the game but The Lakers continue playing and score and then say that they won the final. SUPERDELAGATES UNLESS YOU WANT THE REPUBLICAN AND MCCAIN TO WIN IN NOVEMBER HURRY PICK THE WINNER "OBAMA" MOST DELEGATES, MOST STATES, AND POPULAR VOTES BEFORE IS TOO LATE. The hardcore republicans is not going to change their mind they will vote for Gaddafi if he was running as a republican but the young people, independent and young republican will vote for OBAMA. What about white working class, I know Obama raised more than 100 MILLIONS! IN 4 MONTHS AND YOU KNOW ALL THAT MONEY DIDN'T COME FROM AFRICAN AMERICAN ONLY. COME ON LETS WIN TOGETHER BEFORE IS TOO LATE!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 20, 2008 at 11:03 am |
  3. Susie

    I just really don't understand the American people. And, the media....where did Obama come from? How long have people known him? All this change he's proposing....HOW CAN HE DO IT?? HE CAN"T....you don't just up and say I'm going to run for president and I'm going to do this and that...there are some rules to follow, and there are people who must be involved. You make light of his patriotism....this country was founded on patriotism. Is a leader loyal and dedicated to his country when he only recently put on his little lapel pin, he won't put his hand on the Bible, and won't salute the flag. You want a story? Check this out! Where will this country go under his leadership? I can tell you: to hell in a handbasket!! People, including the media, better wake up before it's too late. You may wake up to the sounds of war (a battlefield) on your own home turf!! America, I beg you to WAKE UP!!!

    May 20, 2008 at 10:04 am |
  4. Pam

    I agree 100%. The problem is the candidates will just stand up and say what they think the people want to hear just to get elected. Then once they are elected president they are too busy taking trips to foreign countries and trying to figure out how much food and money to send overseas to worry about our problems here un the US. Example; When Bush was asked about the price of gasoline, he said he had no idea it was getting that high. I think our President should travel around our own country, talk to our own people and work on our own issues.

    May 20, 2008 at 6:01 am |
  5. Barb

    Obama holds a rally too gain rock star status, so people will forget about his inexperience.
    His speeches seem so practiced, when he isn't prepared he stumbles , mumbles and stops making any kind of sence.
    But somehow with the help of CNN and their media coverage they bring someone in too explain too the voters what Obama means.
    Does this sound like someone who is ready for the white house.
    He will get too the white house, resume his I'm better than you........ status and forget all about Oregon and all the states he blew off .
    Remember that statement he made , I even filled my own gas tank once, without being asked............da.....

    May 20, 2008 at 4:32 am |
  6. J.V.Hodgson

    Hunger any where is a cardinal sin and must be on the agenda of any so called advocate of change. Obama perhaps has more chance of understanding this than either Clinton or McCain.
    But hunger takes many forms and Clinton is displaying her hunger and the angst it creates by prolonging the democratic nominee race on fallacious grounds.
    After todays votes even 70/30 Clinton in Kentucky and say 55/45 Obama in Oregon and Obama getting on average 45% out of the rest of the states then:-
    1) He will need 18 more SD's ro get to 2027.
    2) He would need 63 SD's to get to 2210.
    Clinton is clutching at straws when she
    a) Disenfranchises caucus states voters, to claim pop vote advantage.
    b) Changes the argument to the presidential electoral college, when no-one supports a) above.
    Me I just hunger for HRC to take a reality pill sooner rather than later.
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    May 20, 2008 at 2:40 am |
  7. bp

    our country is losing pace in economic development in relation to the rest of the world. social policy – poverty – financial improvement of our country are the issues of the day. hilary clinton is intimately familiar with these issues. obama lacks knowledge and experience with these issues. the publicity surrounding an unknown candidate has swept our nation – the democratic voters are not thinking with clarity. it is easy to give a speech, just have a good speech writer. we need someone who has solutions – and who knows how to implement strategy! besides if his recent tirade about the criticism of his wife is an indication of his leadership ability, he missed the mark. doesn't he know public figures are criticized?

    May 20, 2008 at 2:18 am |
  8. Hallie

    I was one of the 75,000 in Portland yesterday 🙂
    It was amazing. The line to see him was insane... and so many people (15,000!) were left outside of the gates. You could feel all the hope in the air. It was incredible. I've never experienced something like it.
    Fellow Oregonians, you have until 8pm to get your ballots in! Do your part 🙂

    May 20, 2008 at 2:17 am |
  9. Mary

    Tammy. I agree with you. There are far too many people scam the system and there are those who do not use their own money for the basic necessities. Instead, they go out on Friday and Saturday night to have 'fun' and spend half the paycheck before going to the grocery store. Not too long ago, I was behind this woman at checkout. She brough expensive steaks and snack food, paid it with a food stamp card, then loaded it all into a new a new very expensive suv and drove off.
    When one looks at the proverty and crime in Senator Obama's district it is an indicator that he has not helped that small area of the US and he will not solve the problems facing Americians. The middle class and working class are slowly getting lost in the shuffle of corporate greed and political pandering.

    May 20, 2008 at 2:12 am |
  10. Missy

    I do not donate food to food drives or volunteer at food banks or kitchens. I understand there are people who fall on hard times due to loss of a job or illness however I see the overwhelming amount of drug addicts and irresponsible people who suck up all these free services. I believe in teaching people how to budget their money and stop being wasteful so when you do fall on hard times, you could survive it or use those free services briefly. Those who really need it like the mentally ill don't receive because the funds end up going to the irresponsible who expect a handout.

    May 20, 2008 at 2:11 am |
  11. Dorothy

    Bill Clinton visited the Oregon Coast where in Lincoln County 19% of the population is below poverty. Fridays are Backpack Days when children's backpacks are filled with food to carry them throughout the weekend so they don't go hungry. CNN seems so sure that all of Oregon is about the Obama "latte" crowd that they don't see that not all of Oregon is Yuppie. Bill Clinton was good to Oregon during his presidency, and I think Hillary Clinton will do better than the pundits expect. Go Hillary!!

    May 20, 2008 at 1:54 am |
  12. Tammy, Oregon

    Obama played by the Clinton's rule and won. Plus Obama stayed positive. He is the best to represent the Democratic Party. Hillary wants to take the Democrats back to the 90's that ship sailed. Time to move forward with Obama.

    May 20, 2008 at 1:18 am |
  13. Janet Nguyen

    I am a McCain supporter, but since I am not a native American, I do not understand the following questions and would like to get some answers:
    1. Why doesn't Obama campaign vigoriously in West Virginia, Kentucky, Montana, Purto Rico, etc.? It seems to me he should campaign much more in those states that he was running behind. He is suppose to be the president for all the people, black, brown, white, etc., He should try especially hard in a white majority state in order to convince everyone that he is the right person to be the nominee of the Democratic Party.
    2. How could he contest the votes in Florida and Michigan if he choses not to campaig in all these other states? Even though statistically he is ahead of Hillary, why he does not see the need to gain more votes in more states so that Hillary can not claim that she has more popular votes than he has?
    4. Hillary seems has more experience and seems know exactly what this country needs than Obama does, but why is she behind in the race? People just do not want to have a Clinton Dynasty?
    5. Why all the candidates just keep on promising everything under the sun to the voters even though I m sure in their hearts, they know that they probably can not carry out most of the promises?

    May 20, 2008 at 12:56 am |
  14. Edward Miller

    I put my money in euros 5 years ago. I owe no money and grow fruit which sells like hot cakes. Why did I do this? Because i have watched America go down hill for years now. So you all just keep buying into the fear game. Keep thinking in the I instead of the we you will make me a rich man. Thanks Ed

    May 19, 2008 at 11:45 pm |
  15. deacon frank l rowland jr

    Dear Sir .
    A few of us mistake WISDON for weakness.
    experienced is to practiced what you have been doing
    only to do it better the next time.
    It too late to talk after you have dropped the bomb.The last eigth year
    was an "EXPERIENCSED".
    why not wisdom this time.

    May 19, 2008 at 11:42 pm |
  16. Dianne

    I hope the Oregon people will face reality and realize we need a candidate who cares and who has the experience to deal with the issues at home and globally. That candidate is not B.O. Michelle and Barrack give good speeches when someone else writes them, and they just have to deliver that speech. When they speak off the cuff, their true feelings come out. Their actions and "off the cuff" remarks show their true feelings. They have had associations of which they should be ashamed. No true loyal American would have had the associations they have had. CNN analysts on tonight, 5/19, said they believe the Hillary supporters will come together with the BO supporters and vote for him. Well, they are not speaking for me and many others. I saw another comment on here regarding the super delegates and that there would be riots in the street if BO is not the Democratic candidate. I agree. I am not going to be forced to vote for BO. If he had been elected fair and square, with Michigan and Florida counting, I may have voted for him. He was not man enough to allow for these states to be counted in the primaries; however, he is already campaigning there for the general election. Why would those voters support him then when his campaign now allow them to have a say in the primaries. This is unfair. I have lost all respect for the Democratic party and would only vote for Hillary as I know she is caring and is the most sincere, experienced candidate. I saw the interview with the lady in Clay Co. in Kentucky who said they were lower than poverty. She also said Hillary was not a viable candidate or something like this, and she would not vote for her as she had gone against the Bible and that a woman's place is in the home. Guess what, lady in Clay Co., Kentucky–in this day and age, a woman can work, take care of her home, be a good citizen etc. if she is ambitious. Guess what, lady in Clay Co., Kentucky–this might help you get out of poverty. I am 53 and have worked full-time since I got out of college, raised children, participated in Church and civic affairs, and I am still a strong Christian. There are lots of us who are willing to work hard so Michelle O. might give us some credit for that. She is only proud of America when things benefit her and Obama. Voters of Oregon, Kentucky, Florida, Michigan etc.–Hillary got shafted and Obama has promoted that for his self-interests. I believe any candidate should win fair and square. B.O. will take it any way he can get it. That is why I would never vote for him. He is not a real man, nor a loyal American. Michelle would be a poor excuse for a first lady after the comments she has made. She wants to take center stage so I believe she is fair game in the campaign ads. What is big tough B.O. really going to do if this is not stopped.? He sounded like he was threatening.

    May 19, 2008 at 11:24 pm |
  17. Ben Roberts

    Obama needs to just totally get out of the race he is to wishy washy to be a good president. mcCain will eat him alive. I voted for Hillary in Ohio's Prim. But I will tell you this if Obama is the Dem Nom. I am voting McCain and Ohio will go Red this year.

    May 19, 2008 at 11:22 pm |
  18. JJ_Orlando

    I just have a bad feeling about Obamas people...like his wife. I just do not trust a lawyer as the first lady. She is bigger than Obama anyway.

    May 19, 2008 at 11:19 pm |
  19. where the beef?

    If I was Hillary Clinton's advisor I would tell her to call a press conference on Wednesday. Get all the news networks and cable together. I would tell her to say that she is going to Denver and she will have name put in nomination for the Democrat party. I would tell everyone that the voters decide elections and she has more votes than anyone else period! And that every vote in Denver will be counted and put on record. So if Obama gets the nomination then he loses and he will! These Delegates can go home and explain to the voters how they chose the 2nd best candidate for the 2008 election!!!

    May 19, 2008 at 11:15 pm |
  20. Raymond Duke Texas

    To answer your question, yes you can win the presidency without the black vote . The Hispanics and the white vote could carry the day even with this college crowd. Has the college vote ever won an election or caused its outcome, no, the black vote is important to the democrat party but it is not crirical to win the white male and female vote is critical to both the republicans and democrats if they want to win.

    May 19, 2008 at 10:55 pm |
  21. William Joseph Miller

    I totally agree with Ms. Bristol; however, this story is not exactly new. I read about hunger in Oregon from an article published in the magazine In These Times. Those are stories that the news networks do not cover.
    I heard excerpts of Obama's speech in Portland. The issues Ms. Bristol mentined in her letter were the very issues Obama was addressing in his speech. Obama may have lacked specifics in his speech, but Obama feels that in order to achieve anything you must convince people that problems exist. You should consult Obama's website for detailed policies.
    The bottom line is simple. We have given enormous tax cuts to the rich. The top 1% enjoy an enormous share of this country's and this world's wealth. Living in gated communites, the wealthy do not care about any one else. They brought us a ruinous war – and their portfolios have sky-rocketed since the Iraq war started. Obama is very quick to link many of our problems to the Iraq war – which both Hillary Clinton and John McCain supported.
    As Obama stated, we need a radical change and a radical re-arrangement of our policies. The GOP has had 7 1/2 years to address the problems of hunger and poverty in America. Thanks to the GOP, hunger and poverty has increased – primarily because the GOP only care about the rich – and preventing gays from getting married. We need a to clean house and sweep every Republican out of office. Only then will we be able to address the problems Ms. Bristol addressed in her letter

    May 19, 2008 at 10:20 pm |
  22. Kent, Illinois

    Tammy Berwick..........

    The minority of the people who scam the system is small compared to the many people who are really in need. You would think you would have a birds eye view of devastation and needy people on your doorstep in LA to show you the truth. Instead, your view is so biased and uninformed. You mention the debt to China. Thank your GOP President for that. Also thank him for the national debt for that matter. 8 years ago we were at a surplus. As for the Do Gooders..........it would do you good to do for others. It may change your view.......Oh I'm sorry.....your view is from a 3,000 a month condo.

    May 19, 2008 at 9:48 pm |
  23. verna

    I am a Dem. I would have voted for whoever won the nom.........until I started hearing if Bo. don't get the nom.....their will be rioting in the streets. I for one don't like to be threatened , I'm sure most American's feel the same.....I WILL NOT VOTE FOR BO.....

    May 19, 2008 at 9:34 pm |
  24. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    Let's see. We already provide free and reduced breakfast and lunch from pre-k on to kids year round. That takes care of those math scores. I watch these kids every day. They eat better than my grandmother does in a top of the line assisted living facility that she pays close to three grand for per month down here in South Louisiana. These same starving people I'm supposed to feel sorry for have cell phones and cable and laptops and internet, but yet they can't afford to eat. Gee, let's change the priorities. Hmm, food or internet? I'd go for food personally, but I guess others figure scamming the food bank is easier. And then we have our drains on society, the addicts who choose not to clean up and instead let us pay for the disasters they let their lives become. I know some people honestly have nothing. But with all the federal aid available, loss the cell, drop the internet, kill the cable and designer clothes, stop smoking the cigs and drinking the beer and doing the drugs and then claim poverty. I do not want my tax dollars paying for people who have no idea what true poverty means but can spot a sucker human services worker and scam him or her in a heartbeat. And if not being screwed out of my hard earned dollars me evil, then I guess I'm as Mark Steyn says, one of those scary conservatives. For the record, I do help those in need, just those I know who really and honestly are in need. The Dolly and Donny Do Gooders of this country might want to follow suit before we have no money left because our gimme programs have run our deficit even higher and we own an every great debt to China for bailing us out.

    May 19, 2008 at 8:40 pm |
  25. Eugenia

    You have to know that every family that you hand a box of food to you are helping and those children will always remember you.

    You have to know that with just the candidates being there, you have shed light on your program.

    You have to know that with CNN airing your blog that more people have become aware of the need for Food Banks.

    You have done more then you realize!

    The people of the United States of America has more than most!

    San Francisco, Ca

    May 19, 2008 at 8:38 pm |
  26. Spencer

    Wake up Oregon, vote for Hillary. Do not give Barack the sympathy vote...

    May 19, 2008 at 8:33 pm |
  27. Sharon from Indy

    Rachel:
    Thank you for your report on AC360 website.

    As a journalist working in the state of Mississippi for the past four months, I interviewed many low-income families with their children going to school hungry and senior citizens flocking to school cafeterias to receive a free lunch three times a week. And yes, Mississippi has the greatest percentage of high school drop outs in the U.S.

    But hunger is not so apparent in the US. It's not like the skeleton children we see in photographs from the camps Darfur or other areas of Africa. But American children do go hungry. If it is not lack of available food, it is the high-calorie, high fat, lack of nutritional value foods that are affordable to low income families.

    I also agree with many senior citizens facing hunger as well. Social security doesn't cover expenses like a decade ago. If it is choice between heating one's home or going without food, sometimes they select warmth. In addition, many grandparents are raising grandchildren with limited incomes. It takes even more effort to stretch family dollars no matter what family dynamics.

    Hunger is not comfortable topic for candidates to discuss. It is an ongoing, complicated issue with failed policies. The sound bites of thousands of packages of rice given to relief efforts may be satisfying to some Americans. But until the candidates and other governmental officials REALLY see the eyes of a child with an empty belly in America, the issue of hunger will not be addressed.

    Thank you for opening our eyes in your report.

    May 19, 2008 at 8:13 pm |
  28. Kent, Illinois

    Obama could win the hearts of the blue collar workers by showing what he was so good at in Illinois........helping the regular joe. In Chicago he was on the street making a difference. Do not forget where you came from Obama. Take a step back and actually show people what came natural for you to do in Illinois....touch base with the people................visit the foodbank, shelter, veterans hospital. That is who you are. I saw this in you here in Illinois............show them...........

    May 19, 2008 at 7:57 pm |
  29. Larry

    Not to worry; vote for Obama & you get all the food you want.

    May 19, 2008 at 7:51 pm |
  30. Kent, Illinois

    Politically speaking, the candidates are missing an important opportunity to show everyone they really care about the hurting people of this country..........whether they actually care or are pretending to care.

    The candidate who comes across "helping" will get the votes in November. Show a candidate serving food in a soup kitchen or handing out cheese to needy people and I'll show you a hard person to beat in November.

    May 19, 2008 at 7:50 pm |
  31. Annie Kate

    The US is already falling behind in science and math; our children do not do as well in school as children in other countries; some parents work 2 and 3 jobs to try to put food on the table and pay for shelter and electricity. It doesn't help that corporate American keeps off shoring good paying jobs and there are few if any jobs to replace those lost at the same rate of pay; forcing more people to show up at the food banks and go hungry.

    I hope that all 3 presidential candidates will address the hunger problem and tell us how they plan to solve it. And if they get to be President I hope they carry through on their promise.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 19, 2008 at 7:49 pm |
  32. Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA

    The candidates must place the needs of the people ahead of corporate greed. None of them do this and nothing will change for poor and middle class Americans until they do.

    May 19, 2008 at 7:43 pm |