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Hunger in America – Thinking Outside the Food Pantry

with Sharon Thornberry of the Oregon Food Bank


Taking a Look at Food Insecurity



Sharon Thornberry is the Community Food Systems Manager at the Oregon Food Bank. Sharon has been a grassroots organizer, trainer and advocate for community food systems, rural communities, and anti-hunger work in Oregon since 1986. She grew up on farms, was very active in 4-H and Girl Scouts, and was one of the first female members of Future Farmers of America. In 1979, she was a homeless mom with two small children. Sharon has served on the Oregon Hunger Task Force for 16 years, the board of the Community Food Security Coalition for six years (three as President), and the board of Bread for the World and Bread for the World Institute for six years. The sum of her experiences have come together to make her a passionate and knowledgeable community food security and anti-hunger advocate. She is the 2009 recipient of the Billi Odegard Public Health Genius Award from the Community Health Partnership of Oregon. She has worked for Oregon Food Bank for the past 16 years focusing on rural food systems and is the creator of “FEAST”, the nationally recognized community food systems organizing program. She has been a resident of Philomath, Oregon for 30 years. She is an avid gardener and loves to share the cooking traditions learned in the farm kitchens of her youth with friends and family.

Sharon Thornberry Twitter



“The statistics say that rural hunger is not as bad as urban hunger, I think people in rural communities are less likely to admit they’re hungry too. There’s a lot of pride that goes with living in rural communities.”

“There aren’t equal opportunities for everybody and there’s a lot of deniers that say that all of this stuff is made up. But I’m here to tell you it’s not made up. We don’t think about the challenges of access. People with small children are the most financially insecure. Salaries have not kept up with the cost of living in this country.”

“We’re leaving a lot of kids in a really bad place because it’s impossible for their parents to have a living wage, especially in rural communities. There’s a whole systemic thing that we need to look at and figure out how we solve it as a country.”

“Just think: the food banks across this country, there are hundreds of Feeding America food banks, there are tens of thousands of food pantries across this country, they all have volunteers. If those folks had taken even a fraction of the hours they’ve taken handing out food and been saying to the powers that be: to congress, to their state senators, to their state legislators, even to their county commissioners, “This is wrong, we have to do this differently,” what do you think the picture would be? I think we’d be in a different space?”

“It’s about keeping the discussion going, and people having success, and supporting small farmers. You can’t do enough to do that. Go out there and get to know your small farmer, find out what their issues are, and find out how you can help them stay in business.”



Oregon Food Bank

A Place at the Table book and film

Local Government Commission