A decade ago, low-income Oregonians were forced to choose between spending money on healthcare and food. Today, that trade-off has shifted to choosing between housing and eating
On a bad day, Amy Knight skips a meal, sometimes two, so her daughters can eat. On a worse day, Knights eldest child, 15-year-old Lexi, goes without as well so there is food for her younger sister, Sage.
You hope your kids have a better life than you. When you skip meals, and your eldest child skips meals, its no way to live. Its miserable. I hate it, said Knight.
Even when there is enough food, after the beginning of the month when the food stamp payment lands, the 35-year-old working mother is forced to compromise. She buys bulk cheap cuts of meat even if they have too much fat. Instant pasta meals at less than a dollar. Vegetables in a tin.
Knight lives outside the small city of Lebanon, Oregon, the only US state where food insecurity defined by the federal government on a range from not being able to afford healthy foods to missing meals is rising. Foremost among those struggling to put a meal on the table are single mothers, many of them working.
Ive learned to buy as cheaply as possible to try to make it stretch but even then its not enough. Like this morning before I left, the little one ate, I didnt. And I made sure the little one has at least something to eat in between classes at church for lunch. I brought me a snack bar, said Knight, who is Mormon.
I probably wont eat till dinner, which is fine, but if my oldest knew, she would be yelling at me. The oldest started skipping meals to make sure her sister ate and then she would only eat when I would eat too.
The US Department of Agriculture, which runs the food stamp program, classifies Knight as living with high food insecurity because she is missing meals. Those who still eat regularly but can afford only cheaper, less healthy foods are defined as living with low food insecurity.