Oregon Food Bank’s commitment to equity and racial justice drives our work in partnership with communities that are too often overlooked, systemically disadvantaged and disproportionately affected by hunger. We fully recognize that food banking has historically focused exclusively on providing people food today, without sufficient attention to addressing the underlying challenges that drive hunger and poverty.
That’s why we take a holistic approach to ending hunger and its root causes. We work toward long-term policy and systems change while doing all we can to create inclusive spaces that honor the diversity of identities in our communities. And through community partnership and collaboration, we strive to ensure that dietary and cultural needs are met — sourcing and distributing culturally-relevant foods that help to meet the needs of our communities.
A recent example can be found in our food distribution partnership with the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO). As horrendous acts of violence unfolded in Atlanta and across the country, there was fear in Asian communities — and rightfully so. For many in our community, it was difficult to feel safe enough to even visit a grocery store, adding to existing public health concerns that kept many seniors and other high-risk individuals at home.
Working with our friends at APANO, we were able to identify critical needs that weren’t being met among a specific group of low-income seniors. In coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, our team sourced hundreds of meals worth of rice, oil, fresh produce and other culturally-relevant pantry staples. And with the support of community volunteers, we packed and distributed the food to more than 350 families on-site — delivering door-to-door to those who were unable to leave their homes.
Events like these are made possible through partnerships with leaders and organizations who have deep relationships in their respective communities. We work with partners like APANO, the Arab American Cultural Center, Causa Oregon, the Muslim Educational Trust and many others to determine what is needed, where support is best targeted, and how Oregon Food Bank can best provide assistance and infrastructure.
We know that food is so much more than simple nutrition. Food is an incredibly important aspect of our identities, families, traditions and culture — and the foods we find most nourishing are often those that meet both our need for nutrition and comfort. As an organization that holds people experiencing hunger at the center of all we do, we envision a future where everyone in our community can fully participate, prosper and have reliable access to food that is in keeping with their culture. And together with our partners, we are making meaningful progress through mindful program collaboration and implementation — pairing culturally-relevant foods with the communities that need them.
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