Every Thursday morning Taunya Golden-David arrives at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in North Portland. Volunteers help Taunya set up boxes and produce and prepare to help distribute food and additional support to local families. 

The Free Food Market, run by Black Mental Health Oregon, has been operational for two months and already they serve about 100 families a week. The community rallies together to provide support in every way possible, from food resources to emotional support and advice. The volunteer team is made up of family, friends and neighbors, creating a community-driven environment to support one another. 

Taunya, the founder and CEO of Black Mental Health Oregon, saw the need in her community grow due to the pandemic, so she started collecting food boxes and personally delivering them to families. “I was gleaning and trying to get food and taking it to people’s houses,” she says. One day she was inspired to ask her church for a space to support a distribution site. 

“I asked the pastor if we can use the parking lot until we get our own place,” says Taunya. “They allowed me to use the church parking lot and it’s right on the corner and it’s right at the light where people can see us. So, we get walk-ups, we get drive-thrus. We have a lot of people who come every week.”

Oregon Food Bank partners with Taunya to provide support and resources for food distribution. “The food bank is really big because every week they check in with me and we’re able to see what people like and what they don’t like. We’re able to put things in there that are healthier options so the food bank is really important.”

Tauyna knows firsthand how advocacy and community connections help break the stigma around mental health. She founded Black Mental Health Oregon to provide support to individuals and families experiencing mental health challenges. She was inspired by her own mental health challenges and the stigma she faced when seeking help. After suffering in silence she witnessed a friend’s episode of psychosis. Tauyna decided she could not let her friend struggle in silence the same way she did. She decided it was time to break the silence and normalize conversations around mental health. 

Since founding Black Mental Health Oregon seven years ago, Taunya has advocated for change around education and health. Their current campaign, “Rethinking our Health,” centers food and nutrition education, financial education and mental health support.

Taunya does not only want to normalize conversations around mental health — she wants to normalize conversations around financial literacy, around health, around nutrition. “We do this through education. We do this through community engagement. We do this through personal connections with the community. We use our events, we use our food, we use any avenue we can to bring up the conversation and make it normal,” says Taunya. “To make it less harmful to someone’s ears and their heart, so it’s more common communication and normal.”

When asked why de-stigmatizing mental health is so important, Taunya shared:  “Mental health is to me, one of the most important things you can have. And when it comes to us, we have been broken. We have been broken on purpose to learn bad behaviors. If we can just work with one family at a time, through a food box or a service or an event, that’s to me like giving somebody a million bucks. To teach someone, to learn a way of thinking about themselves or unlearn a bad habit of eating, unlearn a way of spending money, unlearn habits that we all learn because of systemic racism and all the things that we’ve gone through, to be able to be a part of the community, helping a few families at a time, that’s everything.”

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