According to a United States Department of Agriculture survey, Oregon is the hungriest state in the country. This ranking prompted Gov. Kulongoski to name April 27 through May 3 “Hunger Awareness Week.” But, there is reason to be skeptical of Oregon’s status.
To start, according to other USDA sources, in terms of “Healthy Eating Patterns,” Oregon ranked number one in the nation for percentage of individuals meeting daily recommendations for fruit. Further, Oregon was third for meat consumption, and fifth for grain.
The USDA survey itself overlooks perhaps a key reason why some people may be food insecure. Certainly there is plenty of food in this state and country. Therefore, food insecurity may be a matter of how a person spends his income.
Did the individuals questioned by the USDA have sufficient income to buy their food, but choose instead to spend it on non-essentials such as cable television, alcohol or cigarettes? We don’t know; the survey does not ask such questions. However, any of these expenses can cost a person or family several hundreds of dollars a year. This would be money better spent on a necessity, namely food.
Poor individual decisions may play a role in whether a person is hungry or not. The lack of such information and other survey shortcomings cast a shadow over Oregon’s food insecurity ranking.
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