OSU Researchers: 1 in 4 Oregonians Face Food Insecurity

A new paper from Oregon State University, researchers found that about 1 million Oregonians, or 1 in 4 people, experienced a disruption in their ability to feed themselves or their family this year. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased food insecurity to twice what it was a year ago and erased all the gains in that area that happened after the Great Recession. Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Indigenous households are especially affected both now, and even during the time where food insecurity was at a low 

Report author Mark Edwards, a sociology professor and director of OSU’s Policy Analysis Laboratory in the College of Liberal Arts, said to the OSU Newsroom, “Here we’d been really improving and getting to historically low levels of food insecurity, then suddenly all that got reversed in a very short time, and the new number is extraordinarily high.” 

To measure food insecurity, questions were asked about things like needing to cut down meal size to stretch money needed to buy food, skipping meals, or going days without eating. 

Edwards said those most likely to experience food insecurity are low-income households, households dealing with fewer work hours or being without a job, and single-mother households. Systemic inequities such as higher rates of poverty, unemployment and underemployment affect people of color, adding to food insecurity.  

“So now if you imagine that our food insecurity rate has doubled, then there’s every reason to believe that the number for people of color has doubled into the 30% range — and I’m being really conservative when I say that,” Edwards told OSU Newsroom. “It’s likely well north of 30%.” 

Edwards said that food insecurity affects physical and mental wellbeing well into the future.

Oregon 20 years ago had one of the worst food insecurity rates in the nation, Edwards said, but since has much improved due to the combined efforts of state agencies, such as Oregon Department of Human Services and non-profit organizations such as Oregon Food Bank. These groups have since worked to alleviate food insecurity caused by the pandemic. 

Because of proactive work, Edwards said Oregon was well-positioned to assist with food insecurity this year. Edward is going to follow up with food insecurity reports, including a survey of OSU students, as the pandemic goes on.  

If you are experiencing food insecurity, please see this website for places that can help. 

By: Hannah Ramsey