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Hunger ranking really irrelevant

Editorials

What matters is that too many Oregonians can't feed themselves

Maybe Oregon doesn't have more hungry people than any other state in the nation after all. Maybe we're fourth or fifth on the list. Maybe we don't even break the top 10.

Woo-hoo.

It's not exactly cause for celebration, this apparent revelation over the past few days that studies ranking Oregon as the nation's hungriest state could have been wrong all along.

That the state may, depending on how hunger is defined and the numbers are counted, fall as low as 13th among the 50 states seems conspicuously beside the point. That most underfed Oregonians probably aren't actually starving ' just chronically hungry ' seems like an irrelevant distinction to make.

Oregon has residents, thousands of them, who can't afford to feed themselves regularly.

— In the Rogue Valley alone, the people who help feed hungry people have been busier every year for at least the past several years.

Over the past year in Jackson County, demand for the food boxes distributed by food pantries has grown at least 20 percent. From January through March, 7,642 Jackson County households received food boxes, up from 6,309 in the same period last year.

Oregon, with an unemployment rate of 8 percent in April, continues to lead the nation in its percentage of residents without jobs. Even before that, in 2001, Jackson County ranked 171st of 181 metropolitan areas in a housing affordability study by the National Association of Home Builders.

It's hard for us to see any real problem in hunger advocates using the government rankings to force political pressure to increase discussion of this issue in Oregon. Unlike whether we should pump our own gas, hold annual legislative sessions or pay more taxes, the ability of residents to afford food addresses a basic human need.

And it's a need that has defied a simple resolution. Despite years of continuous efforts to bring in money and food, pantries across the state perpetually run short as they attempt to feed the hungry people who come to them.

It shouldn't matter whether they're starving or simply hungry, or whether this state is worse off than any other. All that really matters here is the line out the door.

Get involved

Talent residents who want to have a say in the design of a new civic center should attend two meetings slated next week.

City officials will consider a new civic center at a meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Talent Community Center. A follow-up session will be held at the same time and place on Thursday, when a consultant and city staff will return with conceptual drawings.

City Hall, the community center, the library and a number of other municipal buildings are currently on the four-acre site. A replica of the old train depot is under construction. Except for the new depot and the existing community center, it is likely that all other buildings on the site will be demolished.

The city will put together the parts of the new civic center as the city can afford the various projects.

It's possible that the project may get federal Community Development Block Grant funds. It's also possible that city officials will ask voters to approve a bond issue in November 2004.

The forthcoming meetings are very important to the future of Talent. A good turnout will give architects and city staff members some direction, and will also give Talent residents a chance to have their say on city facilities.