Some 322,000 adults and 188,000 children in Oregon either don't know where their next meal is coming from or are going to bed hungry, according to a report by the Center on Hunger and Poverty (CHP) at Brandeis University. Three years after receiving the dubious honor of being named "Hungriest State in the Nation" by the US Department of Agriculture, Oregon has again been placed at the top of state hunger rates.
"There clearly is a problem in Oregon for the numbers to be so high," says CHP director J. Larry Brown. "The key thing seems to be that Oregon's years of strong economic growth did not bring down the hunger rate. You need good policy to do that; it's not just an economic issue."
Oregon's current recession and high unemployment rate have been cited by state and local officials as part of the problem. But the original USDA report covers the years 1996 to 1998, and the CHP report, Hunger and Food Insecurity in the Fifty States, represents data from 1998 to 2000, years remembered as an economic boom time.
Michael Leachman, an analyst at the Oregon Center for Public Policy, tends to agree. "I don't think that we, as a state, have come to terms with the broad problems with the sorts of jobs we're creating," he says. "You can think about the hunger ranking like the canary in the mineshaft--it's a signal that we have a serious problem we need to address. Our economy is failing to serve many thousands of Oregonians, the majority of whom are working, but still finding that at times they don't even have enough money to eat. That's pretty bad." MARC COVERT
Underage strippers and musicians received a brief reprieve this week. In spite of their objections, last month the OLCC had announced a new "indecency law" that would make it illegal for strippers and musicians under the age of 21 to perform in bars. While the OLCC originally planned to begin enforcement on September 1, they are postponing until January 1. "We've changed it primarily because we wanted to be fair to all those people who have groups contracted to perform in the future," explained Ken Palke, spokesperson for the OLCC. KATIA DUNN