Serious flaws found in national food price study
A recent news report regarding the cost of groceries in Crook County is more complex than first meets the eye, according to the regional food bank, NeighborImpact.
A report last week by Bend-based television station KTVZ — which sourced a report produced by Feeding America, an anti-hunger group based in Chicago — identified Crook County as having the highest per meal cost in the nation.
The story has raised surprise, concern and questions among many local residents, much of which surfaced on social media.
NeighborImpact, which is the Feeding America affiliate for Central Oregon, has been aware of that number since the report was first published (2015). However, NeighborImpact questioned that number as soon as it was released.
"It's not untrue that Feeding America reported a shocking per meal cost for Crook County. When we saw the number, we had to ask ourselves: How could food in Crook County be higher than in Alaska, Hawaii or New York?" said Carly Sanders, Food Bank Director for NeighborImpact.
The agency immediately contacted Feeding America and began looking deeper into the data. After several months, Feeding America confirmed that the third-party company which conducted the survey on behalf of Feeding America did not include any of the large Crook County grocery stores in its calculations.
"It would be easy to understand," noted Sanders, "if only convenience stores were sampled, average prices might come out higher."
Scott Cooper, Executive Director of NeighborImpact, is also a resident of Crook County, who frequently shops in local stores. "My personal experience is that living in Crook County is like living anywhere else," Cooper. "You shop wisely, and you compare prices."
Cooper says shopping in Prineville doesn't result in extraordinary grocery bills in his house. He went on to note that several of Prineville's grocery stores are great partners to local food banks, helping feed the many Central Oregonians who can't afford food at any price or who must make the impossible choice between food, rent or paying the utility bill.
Sanders noted that the issue of food access is real in Central Oregon and especially in Crook County, where issues such as unemployment and lack of access to public transportation can limit people's ability to shop for food.
"For many residents, a convenience store may be the only option people have," she said. The actual cost of a meal — whether it's $5.61 as reported by Feeding America in Crook County or $2.91, the Oregon average — still leaves a decent supply of quality food out of reach of too many of our fellow citizens." Sanders noted that in 2017, NeighborImpact and its partners provided 43,774 meals in Crook County to local residents.
A local group, Crook County On The Move, in conjunction with Oregon Food Bank and NeighborImpact is working to try to address the issue of hunger in Crook County.
A FEAST planning event is scheduled for Saturday, March 10 at 10 a.m. at the Crook County Library. Individuals interested in helping address and reduce hunger are invited to participate.
The majority of this report was via a press release provided by NeighborImpact.