In rural Oregon, trips to food banks are the new normal

In towns such as Junction City, rising housing costs push families to pantries to fill monthly budget gaps

Walking through the immaculate, well-organized aisles of Junction City Local Aid’s food pantry, Jeanie Burr chatted happily with volunteer Peggy Saltz about produce.

“OK, so I got a cauliflower,” Burr said, clutching three bags. “Look at the size of those potatoes! One of these will …”

“… make a meal,” said Saltz, finishing her sentence. “Raisins?”

Jim, another shopper who declined to give his last name, also seemed to be enjoying his trip to the pantry.

“I love brussels sprouts,” Jim said. “My wife hates them.”

A big man with a long white beard, Jim smiled as he described his love for super-spicy peppers. Another volunteer placed a bottle of Tabasco in his basket.

Burr and Jim said they felt no stigma accessing the pantry, even in a small town like Junction City, home to about 6,000 residents, in Lane County. It’s a place where “everybody knows everybody, so everybody knows if you’re having a hard time,” said the pantry’s executive director, Kori Rodley.

It’s trips like these that have become normal for some families as a way to offset the burden of housing costs, even in rural areas.


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By Thacher Schmid