From Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley
In the richest country in the world, no person should be going to bed hungry or waking up to an empty fridge. And no child should be without nutritious meals in the summer time because their schools are closed. But that is the reality in Oregon — the 12th hungriest state in America — for countless families.
That’s why we have critical programs within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program, to help families buy their groceries and address food insecurity for children during summer months when schools are closed.
Yet between coordinating transportation, working multiple jobs, and staying home to take care of loved ones, getting to a grocery store can be a big challenge — particularly for rural communities and low-income Oregonians who live in food deserts, and have to travel longer distances to get to the store. Or for people without a car who have to make multiple trips because they are buying groceries in small amounts they can carry home. And last year, an abrupt, unexplained decision by the Trump administration canceled the Summer EBT program in Oregon, even though the program fed almost 72,000 children in 45,105 households in 27 of Oregon’s 36 counties.
But now, I have two good pieces of news to share that will help us address those urgent problems for our most vulnerable communities: First, Oregon is going to be included in a pilot program that will test a new tool to make groceries more accessible, by allowing Oregonians to use their SNAP benefits to purchase foods online as well as in stores. Second, I was able to use my position as the top Democrat on the spending subcommittee that oversees the USDA to make sure that the Summer EBT program will be restored in Oregon for the next three summers, providing low-income children consistent nutrition when school is closed. These are big wins that will help families in every corner of our state purchase food, feed their children, and make ends meet.
For hundreds of thousands of Oregonians, food assistance programs like SNAP and Summer EBT have made the difference between eating and going to bed hungry. While our mission to tackle food insecurity in Oregon is far from over, these are important strides that will help thousands of people purchase food. We need to keep working at this until nobody in Oregon goes hungry.