Today marks the beginning of Blogtown’s (2nd Annual) Flash Food Drive. We’ll be collecting food for the Oregon Food Bank here at our office [605 NE 21st Ave., Suite 200] for the next six business days. Here’s why:

According to a report the USDA made public on Monday, 14.6 percent of American households experienced “food insecurity” in 2008. That means 49 million Americans last year experienced a range of difficulties getting enough food in their bellies: some had to purchase less nutritional foods to make ends meet, some went without meals entirely.

This is the highest percentage of Americans experiencing food insecurity since the USDA began collecting the data in 1995, and it’s a 3.5 percent increase since 2007. In 2008, the number of children living in food insecure households totaled 17 million.

According to the Oregon Food Bank and the Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force, 95,000 Oregon households per year between 2006 and December of 2008 went without food for a period of time because they were unable to cover the cost. That ranks Oregon #3 nationally in food insecurity.

What the current USDA report does not take into account is the increasing unemployment numbers since December 2008. There are likely far more hungry people in the U.S. than the study indicates. In Oregon, at least, the Oregon Food Bank distributed 14 percent more Emergency Food boxes this year than just last year.

I know that when reading through the statistics, its fairly easy to get lost in numbers and percentages. But make no mistake that food insecurity is increasing in the nation and our state. While there are long-term legislative goals both locally and nationally to end child hunger, there is a distinct need to provide assistance right now to people facing days or weeks without food.

You can help by dropping off a non-perishable food item (or an entire bag of them) at the Mercury office, 605 NE 21st Ave., Suite 200, between 9:30 AM and 4:30 PM. All who donate will be able to put their names in the magic sombrero for a chance to win two cookbooks: The Silver Spoon: Pasta, and the brand spankin’ new Bob’s Red Mill Cookbook. Keep ‘em for yourself or give them as Christmas gifts! Your choice!

Thanks in advance for your donation.