We can have our disagreements about politics, religion and education. But on the subject of hunger in Oregon, there's no room for debate: Nobody should go without.
But because of a chronic 9 percent unemployment rate, brought on by a weak economy and slow (at best) job recovery, the people who once could be counted on to donate food have become the recipients.
The consequence has materialized with food pantries struggling to keep enough food on their shelves, easily overwhelmed by a growing demand. Pantries are forced into the uncomfortable position of handing out less to individuals, in order to provide at least something to many.
Ironically, it's less expensive to feed these people today than it is to pay for the long-term consequences that will develop in the months and years ahead.
According to the Oregon Food Bank, a 2007 report estimated hunger in Oregon costs $1.2 billion each year by lowering academic and economic productivity, causing more hunger-related illnesses and increasing reliance on human services and emergency food programs. And that was before the economic downturn began in 2008. The cost would be higher today.
The Oregon Food Bank also reports food insecurity may contribute to obesity and its subsequent health problems, particularly among women. Fetal malnutrition can cause problems later in school and health problems later in life.
Undernourished seniors can show symptoms of dementia and are more prone to falling injuries.
These aren't just facts quoted in some dispassionate study but are the realities faced by people right here in East County. Snow-CAP Community Charities, which operates a food pantry in Gresham, served 4,000 people a month in 2007, but by 2010 that number had reached 10,000 a month.
The Outlook's front-page story on Wednesday, Oct. 12, shows how Snow-CAP and other organizations that provide food assistance are all in the same position - unable to meet the demand for a hungry public.
That story should act as a call to action.
The best and most immediate thing any one person or family can do is to immediately donate food to the Oregon Food Bank or to any food pantry in your neighborhood.
Host a neighborhood or workplace food drive. Ask people to bring canned food to your next dinner party or holiday gathering. One Outlook staffer plans to ask those invited to her daughter's fourth birthday party to bring food for local pantries.
Buy an extra can of beans or box of Hamburger Helper when they're on sale.
And don't forget items that make the holiday season special, such as brownie and cake mixes, pudding and hot cocoa.
Please act today.
The opinions expressed above are those of The Gresham Outlook's editorial board.