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Hunger now is a call to action — for everyone

Nobody in Oregon should go without food - unfortunately, many of us are

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.

Officials with the food bank say the need for emergency food is at an all-time high.

In response to a request from the Oregon Food Bank early last year, the Tualatin School House Pantry added Lake Oswego and West Linn to its coverage area. After averaging service in 2010 to 501 families a month - 120 of them from Lake Oswego - the caseload climbed to a record 660 families in August.

While the pantry has not turned away anyone in need of food yet, the selection has become limited and some items can't be offered on a regular basis. To help local people who are hungry, the pantry needs donations of food and cash.

For more information, visit its website at www.schoolhousepantry.org, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 503-783-0721. The pantry is located at 3550 S.W. Borland Road.

The best and most immediate thing any one person or family can do is to donate food to the Oregon Food Bank, the Tualatin School House Pantry or to any food pantry in your area. To find out where or how, visit the bank's website at www.oregonfoodbank.org or phone 503-282-0555.

Host a neighborhood or workplace food drive. Ask people to bring canned food to your next dinner party or holiday gathering. Consider throwing a birthday party for your children that invites attendees 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.