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Don't bank on it

(article, Stephanie Beechem)

It's summer, which means that people — especially kids — are hungrier than usual.

Wait, you say — it's hot out, which should mean that we're less hungry than usual, right?

True, hot weather usually casts a chill on our appetites. But summertime is also the season when school-lunch programs typically shut down. And lately, it's the season when food banks slim down. That means less food to go around to those who really need it.


h1. Make a bank deposit

America’s Second Harvest has a handy food-bank locator. Hold a drive with your company, neighbors, school, or sports team; many food banks provide supplies, posters, and even free pick-up for larger drives.

According to the USDA, food insecurity is most prevalent in the South and West. If you live in these areas, consider volunteering at a local food bank.


Here in Oregon, the Oregon Food Bank helps serve an average of 194,000 hungry Oregonians every month with emergency food boxes, pantries, and soup kitchens.

But, as the Oregonian recently reported, the OFB is down 5 million pounds of food this fiscal year, from last's year distribution total of 38 million pounds.

Why the decrease? First, the OFB (and most statewide food banks around the country) receives 66 percent of its donations from members of the food industry: farmers, suppliers, and retailers. One of the biggest single contributors within this group is the USDA, whose surplus-commodities program once provided 75 percent of the OFB’s supply. Donations from this program now comprise a meager 12 percent of the OFB’s stock.

Secondly, businesses have become increasingly savvy at both managing their inventories and preventing the sort of cosmetic damage to produce and canned goods that might render them “unsellable.” These unsellable yet perfectly edible foods are just the kind that used to be donated to food banks. But as businesses become more efficient at preventing damage to their inventory, they have less to donate.

Finally, donations from drives and from individuals, though smaller than contributions from businesses, comprise a sizeable 15 percent of the OFB’s supply. But food donations are always highest during the winter — not the summer — holidays.

Summer's bounty is lush. But not everybody gets to benefit.