Oregon was the only state in the country to see a statistically significant increase in hunger from 2013-15. As we've written about previously, we believe a big reason for this is rapidly increasing housing costs. Simply put, if you are paying more for housing, that’s less money in your household budget for food.
The right public policy response in this moment is to make policy changes and invest in efforts that reduce hunger in Oregon. Doing so would mean fewer Oregonians making the impossible choice between paying for rent or food.
That’s why we are deeply troubled by the budgets proposed by the Governor and the Ways and Means Co-Chairs—each which would result in a significant reduction in food assistance and other services for Oregon’s students, seniors and families.
This is unacceptable. It’s the wrong direction at the wrong time. Budgets are moral documents. We cannot balance the budget on the backs of Oregonians who are struggling to purchase food.
Oregon invests a relatively small amount of state resources directly into anti-hunger efforts. The federal government funds the majority of Oregon’s anti-hunger programs—SNAP and school meals represent the biggest share by far. At a time when hunger is on the rise, we should ask ourselves how we can invest in new and innovative ways to make sure people can afford food (like increasing SNAP benefit levels so that families can actually make it through the month without running out).
But that’s not what we’re asking. We’re asking instead which groups should shoulder budget cuts.
There is another way
The legislature can and should reject these cuts and choose policies that put Oregon on a responsible and sustainable fiscal path.
Oregon’s budget faces a real shortfall in the coming years. But let’s be clear: this shortfall was not caused because too many kids eat nutritious, locally sourced meals at school or too many fixed-income seniors receive tomatoes at the farmers market.
When the Governor released her budget proposal earlier this month, she said that "The budget includes significant cuts at a level I find absolutely unacceptable." We agree.
The legislature can choose not to accept these cuts. In order for that to happen, they need to hear from you.
How to get involved
There are two things you can do to raise your voice:
Show up to a town hall meeting near you. The following dates and times of public hearings hosted by the Oregon Joint Ways and Means Committee to hear from Oregonians about our thoughts on the budget. We encourage you to show up, and speak out against balancing the budget on the backs of the one in six Oregonians who are at risk of hunger.
Salem: Friday, February 10, 5-7 p.m. Oregon State Capitol, 900 Court Street NE, Salem, Hearing Room F
Portland: Saturday, February 11, 12-2 p.m. PCC Sylvania campus, 12000 SW 49th Ave, Portland, Amo DeBernardis CC Building, Main Mall
Hermiston: Friday, February 17, 5-7 p.m. Hermiston High School, 600 S 1st St, Hermiston, Main Commons
Madras: Saturday, February 18, 1-3 p.m. Madras High School, 390 SE 10th St, Madras, Performing Arts Center
Ashland: Friday, February 24, 5-7 p.m. Southern Oregon University, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd, Ashland, Rogue River Room
Eugene: Saturday, February 25, 1-3 p.m. Lane Community College, 4000 E 30th Ave, Eugene, Rooms 308-309 Building 17 (The Forum)
Tillamook: Friday, March 3, 6-8 p.m. Port of Tillamook Bay, 6825 Officers Row, Tillamook, Officer’s Mess