Is Oregon Really the Hungriest State in the Nation?

John A. Charles, Jr.

If numbers don’t lie, Marie and her two little boys should be going hungry. A high school dropout at 17, she became pregnant, got married, and had a second child all by age 19. She separated from her husband at 20. She brings home $500 a month as a receptionist for a garden products company.

Now 22, Marie (not her real name) has lived in more than half a dozen apartments and houses in east Multnomah County during the past five years. Until recently she relied on public transit, which limited her job options. Last year she bought a small Geo that her day care provider sold at a discount.

I’ve known Marie since she was 15, and have helped her through some tough times. Twice I co-signed on her lease to get her into a home through the Section 8 housing program, which provides vouchers for low-income people.

I hadn’t seen her in awhile, and as we sit in her kitchen I ask her if she’s ever been hungry. She says, “No.” Many of her friends are unemployed or unstable, so I ask if they go hungry. She smiles and says, “No, not really. Most people find a way to eat if they’re not lazy or irresponsible. Even if you’re homeless and on the street, you always have places to go in Portland.”

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About the author: John A. Charles is a senior policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon, think tank. A version of this Policy Perspective appeared in the January 2003 issue of BrainstormNW magazine.

About Cascade Policy Institute: Founded in 1991, Cascade Policy Institute is Oregon’s premier policy research center. Cascade’s mission is to explore and promote public policy alternatives that foster individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity. To that end, the Institute publishes policy studies, provides public speakers, organizes community forums and sponsors educational programs.

Cascade Policy Institute is a tax-exempt educational organization as defined under IRS code 501(c)(3). Cascade neither solicits nor accepts government funding and is supported by individual, foundation and business contributions. Nothing appearing in this document is to be construed as necessarily representing the views of Cascade or its donors, or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before any legislative body. The views expressed herein are the author’s own. Copyright 2006 by Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved.

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