Last week, the House passed a bill that authorizes $40 billion in cuts from the Food Stamp program over the next decade. For the nearly one in four children who live in poverty in Oregon, these national cuts will make the difference between going to bed hungry or not.
“You can’t take $40 billion out of the system and not expect something pretty catastrophic to happen,” said Martha Lyon, executive director of the Community Services Consortium (CSC).
In Linn, Benton, and Lincoln counties the CSC provides critical services for those in need: the working poor, families with children, those on a fixed income, and recent graduates. There is no one face of poverty or need.
“What we are seeing at CSC is something that you wouldn’t expect in olden-days America,” Lyon said.
Even though the recession may be over for some, it is still very real for many. Jobs that can truly pay a living wage are scarce and with large federal cuts looming, many families will experience a long, cold winter.
The CSC is screening the Oregon-made documentary American Winter on Thursday, Oct. 3 to highlight these very issues.
Filmed over the course of one winter in Portland, American Winter presents an intimate and emotionally evocative snapshot of the state of the economy as it is playing out in many American families.
“Winter is the toughest time,” Lyon said.
Bills increase, kids are in school, and the summer bounty is gone. For many local families, winter is the time when they choose to eat or heat.
CSC hopes that by showing the film for free, they will spark a discussion of both the problem and the solutions for poverty in our local community. “The problem is here and it is expanding, not contracting,” Lyon said.
The CSC has seen a 30% reduction in funding over the last seven years and a continuing increase in demand for services. Lyon is quick to point out that CSC is not the only agency working hard locally that needs support. She hopes the film inspires giving and ownership of the issue.
Mike Gibson, director of Linn-Benton Food Share, noted that local donations comprise the majority of funding for his program. He said that people in Corvallis work hard to support programs that help alleviate poverty and food scarcity. But what they may not realize is that the people we live and work with everyday are unable to support themselves without assistance. And even small donations can directly impact a family’s ability to eat.
Lyon agreed. “They may be surprised at the extent, at the reach that poverty has in our community.”
Lyon admits the documentary is heart-wrenching. “But in the same way, it’s inspiring because it shows the amount of resilience people have. If they can just catch a break. If they can get a ledge to stand on. People amaze me every day with what they can do with as little as they have.”
Learn more about CSC, including how to donate, at http://communityservices.us/how-can-i-help.
Working together with the nonprofit organization 211 info in Portland, filmmakers Joe and Harry Gantz were given full access to monitor and record calls from distressed families who were calling 211’s emergency hotline in search of help. They then began following the stories of some of these callers in more depth over several months. The film follows multiple families in their daily struggle to keep their heads above water while facing overwhelming challenges and dwindling resources available to help them, creating a powerful firsthand view of Americans caught in today’s financial undertow.
The film will screen at LaSells Stewart Center at the Oregon State University campus on Thursday, Oct. 3 from 6 to 9 p.m. There will be a panel discussion after the film with Mayor Julie Manning, OSU Sociology Professor Mark Edwards, and CSC Executive Director Martha Lyon.
Watch the trailer at www.americanwinterfilm.com. Screening is free, and donations will be accepted at the door for CSC’s programs.
By Bridget Egan