Americans talk a lot of about financial security, but how many of us talk about food security?

Few of us think of hunger as a major national or local problem. Yet hunger is a grave problem; did you know more than 240,000 people per month ate meals from an emergency food box in Oregon last year. That compares to about 200,000 in 2007-08. This includes hundreds of people in Umatilla and Union countIES.

Hunger (food insecurity) occurs when a household doesn’t have enough money to provide nourishment for itself. It doesn’t necessarily mean starvation — that rarely occurs in the United States. But even here in the Umatilla County, some people skip meals or cut back on the quantity or quality of food they buy at stores because they can’t afford it. They are chronically undernourished.

During 2008-2009 the Oregon Food Bank network distributed 897,000 emergency food boxes. 105,000 more boxes were provided this year than last year. Typically an emergency food box contains a three-to-five day supply of groceries. Most local pantries serve a specific geographic area and limit the number of times a family can receive help. A majority of households served turn to pantries only one to three times a year.

Studies show that mild chronic under-nutrition and poor health go hand-in-hand.

The Food Research and Action Center, a national non-profit organization that fights under-nutrition, says hunger “reduces a child’s ability to learn, decreases a worker’s productive energy, and weakens an elderly person’s resistance to disease. It weakens families, and prevents our nation from reaching its full potential.”

You can help fight hunger and support the health and well being of other area residents by donating to the CAPECO network of food pantries in the Umatilla, Union and Morrow county areas. Donate local, help local.

The hunger issue is a call to action. If you are not able to donate money or food, you can help combat hunger in many ways like; organizing a food drive, helping build food boxes, gleaning fields and gardens, making calls to find volunteers, or just talking about how to over come hunger.

This is an issue that local businesses, faith groups, and fraternal organizations can make a significant difference. It that time of year for us to dig deep into our pockets, food pantries, and personal time to help make everyone’s new year a year of success.

To all farmers, churches, business and everyone else that is already involved, thank you. You are making a difference by leading by example.

Because no one should be hungry,

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Mike Mathisen, 43, lives in Hermiston. He works at Two Rivers Correctional facility as food service manager. He is a volunteer for the American Red Cross and a Court Appointed Special Advocate. He is actively involved in the Umatilla Farmers’ Market. His catering company, Mad Mike’s, uses locally grown produce.

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