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Oregon

Help to Fight Hunger

Community Action Teams forming

Volunteers in Oregon stock food banks through the Drive to End Hunger

Arlene Hornschuch, 75, volunteers at the Tualatin School House Pantry. AARP has urged members to volunteer at local food banks. More than 7 percent of Oregon residents 50 and older are at risk of hunger. — Photo by: Sol Neelman

Arlene Hornschuch is one very busy lady. For more than five years, Hornschuch, 75, has volunteered at the Tualatin School House Pantry, located on the lower level of Rolling Hills Community Church in Tualatin.

See also: Faces of hunger. >>

Her primary job is coordinating other volunteers for shopping with clients, stocking shelves and repackaging food. She's also the receptionist and secretary for the pantry's dental van clinic program.

For all this she gets paid absolutely nothing. "I have the time and feel the need to help others," she said.

During the last few years, Hornschuch has seen quite an increase in the number of clients — many of whom are her age — looking for food to put on their table.

'Need is growing drastically'

The numbers are staggering. In 2004, the pantry served an average of 175 families a month, said Tracy Smith, Tualatin's program coordinator. That number jumped to around 500 in 2010, and this summer the pantry served 660 families a month.

"The need is growing drastically as unemployment has run out, and, as other food banks are running out of food, more are coming to ours," Smith said.

According to the Oregon Food Bank, 260,000 people per month in Oregon and southwest Washington eat meals from emergency food boxes as a result of the growing levels of long-term unemployment. For the first time, more than 1 million emergency food boxes were distributed by the Oregon Food Bank last year.

Julie Piper Finley, director of marketing and communications for Loaves & Fishes Centers, said attendance in their 36 centers and dining rooms in the Portland metro area, which serves Multnomah and Washington counties and Clark County in Washington, increased 20 percent in 2010 over the previous year.

"The reason is primarily economy-driven," Piper Finley said. "People are living on fixed incomes and/or their retirement savings, and investments have lost value."

For 41 years, Loaves & Fishes has provided meals for people over 60 regardless of income, but there is still a perception that it only serves the poor.

What alarms AARP Oregon are the older people who are going hungry in the state. An AARP Foundation report said hunger among Americans 50 and older has jumped nearly 80 percent nationwide since 2001.

Next: Stigma of asking for help. >>