A group of children hugging.

Food Security Legislation for Oregon Children in the Summer

Learn about Oregon’s legislation aimed at ensuring children have access to nutritious meals during summer, supporting food security in all communities.

Introduction to Food Insecurity in Oregon

Food insecurity is a growing concern for children worldwide.  It is especially important in the summer months when children are not participating in meal programs.  The USDA (2019) notes that 22 million children are the recipients of the free and reduced food programs offered at schools. Of these 22 million, only about 3.7 million participate in the summer food programs.  This means there are a lot of children who may need meals in the summer and are possibly at risk for food insecurity in their households.  This blog will dive into the issues of food insecurity in children over the summer months, what Oregon legislation is trying to do about it, and what you can do to help.

Apple on the ground.

What is Food Security?

Food security has a very distinct definition that includes 4 levels as described in the table below by Gallegos, Eivers, Sondergeld & Pattinson (2021).

High Food SecurityHouseholds experience no concerns over their ability to acquire and eat food.  There is no concern over disruption of food supply in the home.
Marginal Food SecurityHouseholds may have minor worries over their ability to acquire and eat food.  There is no modification of daily eating habits, amounts or quality.
Low Food SecurityHouseholds experience disruption in the quality of food that they are able to acquire and obtain.  The quantity of food is not affected.
Very Low Food SecurityHouseholds experience difficulty in acquiring both quality and quantity of food, leading to reduced consumption.

Food insecurity is not a simple thing to quantify.  As noted above, 3 of the 4 categories represent households that are still consuming adequate food, but not all at the same quality.  Not only is it a matter of concern at the individual level, but is also considered to be a public health concern on a larger scale (Choi, Crimmins & Ailshire, 2022).  If a nation cannot provide food security, it is considered a “failed state” (Mayer & Anderson, 2022).

When it comes to quality, fresh produce and dairy are of concern. After the pandemic, the demand for produce was greatly increased. In Oregon, legislation is in the works for more funding to ensure that more produce and dairy products are available, especially in identified food deserts (Terry, 2024).Top of Form

Why Food Insecurity Matters for Children

Women and children are especially vulnerable to food insecurities (Mayer & Anderson, 2022).  For the sake of this article, we are going to focus on the children.  Gallegos, Eivers, Sondergeld & Pattinson (2021) conducted a detailed review to determine the effects of food insecurity on children and the results were astounding.  Some of the more noteworthy findings were that food insecurities showed negative effects on children such as:

  • Lower vocabulary
  • Lower math scores
  • Lower reading scores
  • Lower working memory
  • Behavioral problems
  • Increased hyperactivity
  • General concerns regarding development

While this is not an exhaustive list, it shows how children are greatly affected by food insecurity.  It is time we start thinking of the long-term effects of food insecurity instead of just looking at it as a rumbling tummy at bedtime.

Looking at Oregon in particular, there was a downward trend for food insecurity until COVID-19 hit.  From 2020-2022 this downward trend reversed and the food insecurity rate was measured at 11.2%.  Most of these reversals involved households with children, specifically single mother homes (Terry, 2024).

A group of children hugging.

Oregon’s Legislative Efforts

Terry (2024) reported via Oregon Live on the current efforts of Oregon legislation when it comes to addressing the problem of food insecurity over the summer.  Oregon submitted to be involved in a summer meal program that could benefit a great number of children. To address the disparity in children not receiving meals in the summer, this program would give the parents of children not currently participating in a summer meal program $40 each per child per month.  This would help to offset the cost of feeding those children. 

The issue at hand is that the state of Oregon would need to pay for half of this program while the Federal government would cover the rest. As of the date of this article, lawmakers must still approve this proposal and secure the funding.  If approved, this could benefit 84,000 children who are currently not receiving benefits and 205,000 other children who are currently receiving federal assistance. This will not only fill the bellies of these children, but it would assist in setting them up for success in their future education and behavioral patterns.

Scrabble blocks spelling out vote.

Ways to Get Involved

What can you do to get involved?  There are many ways that we, Oregon citizens, can get involved. 

  • Vote – if programs like this come to a vote, vote yes!  A few dollars out of our pocket could mean an improved life for a child.
  • Time – if you have time, volunteer at a local school offering these summer meals to alleviate the burden on staff and other individuals.
  • Money – if you have a few extra dollars, consider contacting your local school district to see how you can most help the children in the summer.
  • Farm to School – if you own a farm and have an abundance of fruit or other produce in the summer, consider donating to your local school district.


Food insecurity is something that can sometimes go without much thought considering we live in such a rich nation.  The reality is that there are many children right in your own community who could be suffering or hungry.  That suffering can turn into lifetime struggles.  Get involved, use your vote, and help set these children up for success by helping decrease their food insecurity in the summer months when school is not in session.


Botkin, B. (2023). Through pandemic and beyond, demand for food aid in Oregon grows. Oregon Live. https://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/2023/12/through-pandemic-and-beyond-demand-for-food-aid-in-oregon-grows.html

Choi, Y. J., Crimmins, E. M., & Ailshire, J. A. (2022). Food insecurity, food environments, and disparities in diet quality and obesity in a nationally representative sample of community-dwelling older Americans. Preventive medicine reports29, 101912. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2022.101912

Gallegos, D., Eivers, A., Sondergeld, P., & Pattinson, C. (2021). Food Insecurity and Child Development: A State-of-the-Art Review. International journal of environmental research and public health18(17), 8990. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18178990

Mayer, T., & Anderson, M. D. (2022). Food insecurity: A Matter of Justice, Sovereignty, and Survival (Critical Food Studies). Routledge Pub, ISBN: 9780367506155

Terry, L. (2024). Food insecurity is on the rise in Oregon after downward trend before the pandemic. OPB. https://www.opb.org/article/2024/01/29/oregon-food-insecurity-hunger/

Terry, L. (2024). Oregon officials seek funding from legislature to support Summer Food Program for low-income kids. Oregon Live. https://www.oregonlive.com/politics/2024/01/oregon-officials-seek-funding-from-legislature-to-support-summer-food-program-for-low-income-kids.html

USDA. (2019). USDA highlights importance of keeping kids fed during summer months. Food and Nutrition Service U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://www.fns.usda.gov/pressrelease/2019/fns-000719

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