Pacific University students and alumni look "upstream" to find solutions to endemic hunger and malnutrition among Oregon's bounty.Jenni Luckett | Editor
It came as something of a shock to realize that there were adults in his own community who didn’t know how to boil water.
“To our great surprise, there are just a lot of people who don’t know how to cook,” said Jeri Dobbs ’58. “There are kids who have grown up to 18 and never been in a stable home life and never had anybody show them how to cook.”
That lack of knowledge leads to hunger and waste.
“Too many people go to fast food and spend their money on food that is fattening and not very nutritious,” he said. “If they can go to the grocery store, know how to shop, look for ads in the newspaper, they can go and buy enough food to prepare a nutritious meal at a much lower price.
“If you teach someone how to cook, they can survive pretty readily on their own,” Dobbs said.
Jeri and his wife, Tricia, have been volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank (OFB) for more than a decade, ever since OFB opened its headquarters in northeast Portland back in 2001.
“We were looking around for various volunteer things, because we felt we wanted to give back,” Dobbs said. “We came and took the tour, and we were very impressed by it. We asked if there were any volunteer programs we could get involved with…and we’ve been coming here ever since.”
The Oregon Food Bank provides an array of resources throughout Oregon—and needs plenty of help. In the wake of the national recession and housing crisis, need in Oregon has increased dramatically, said Amber Young, a member of OFB’s communication team.
In 2010-11, the OFB Network distributed more than 1 million emergency food boxes, a 12 percent increase over the previous year and a record that OFB staffers never wanted to reach. That emergency food fed more than 260,000 people in Oregon and Clark County, Wash., a third of whom were children. At 29.2 percent, Oregon has the country’s highest rate of food insecurity among children.
“That always hits home to me when I think about all this stuff we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Young said.
Food distribution is, of course, a significant portion of OFB’s work. The food bank collects everything from surplus nonperishables and excess dairy, meat and produce from the food industry to USDA staples and food drive donations. That food is distributed throughout the OFB Network, which includes 20 regional food banks and 923 partner agencies, such as local food pantries, soup kitchens, churches and shelters.
But OFB’s mission isn’t just to feed the hungry today; it’s to end hunger and hunger’s root causes, a much harder prospect. Worldwide, one in seven people don’t have enough food to be healthy and active, according to the United Nations World Food Programme.
It’s about poverty, of course.