Oregon Food Bank is excited to announce our newest addition: Andrea Williams (she/her)!
Andrea joined the OFB team this month as Deputy CEO, bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge that will play a pivotal role in advancing our vision of communities that never go hungry. We sat down with Andrea to learn more about her story and what drives her work in social justice and community resilience.
Oregon Food Bank: Welcome to the OFB team, Andrea! Tell us a little about yourself.
Andrea Williams: Thank you! I’ll start off by saying that I’m an Oregonian through and through. I was born in Eugene, raised in Salem and I currently live with my husband and two-year-old son in Oregon City. So I’ve lived in Oregon my whole life — though I did make a short visit to Walla Walla, Washington where I went to Whitman College. I love it here.
Another thing about me is I’m multiracial. I’m Filipino, Japanese and White. My family spent three generations as farm workers in the sugar cane fields of Hawaii. My parents moved to the Northwest for college and to find better job opportunities. We’ve been in Washington and Oregon since my parents moved here in the 1970s and it’s really that family history that led me into my first career path.
It started with volunteering for Oregon’s farmworker and immigrant rights movement after I graduated from college. It was honestly the first time that I had found a sense of belonging in my home state of Oregon. Just like-minded people, other people of color, people with immigrant families and farming experience. And because of this sense of belonging, I dedicated myself to spend about a decade serving in multiple roles at CAUSA, Oregon’s immigrant rights organization — where I eventually had the privilege of serving as executive director.
With our amazing team at CAUSA, we won some really amazing policy changes that, personally and professionally, I’m very proud of. Those include the decades-long battle to win driver’s licenses for all and defending the first sanctuary law in the nation, which happened to be enacted in Oregon 33 years ago. That was through the “No on Measure 105” campaign. All of that experience and passion I bring with me to Oregon Food Bank, and I’m thrilled to be here.
OFB: What drew you to Oregon Food Bank?
AW: Oregon Food Bank’s amazing people are what first drew me to thinking about working here. Over the years, I’ve seen many of my colleagues and peers from the social justice and advocacy space join the Oregon Food Bank team. I’ve heard from them and many other people how excited they are about the direction the organization is moving. So that was the initial draw, first and foremost.
It’s also really hard to mention the Oregon Food Bank without people profusely complementing the organization’s work. That includes when I announced at my former place of work with the City of Portland that I was coming to work at the Oregon Food Bank. People were so excited — they just love the organization and its systemic approach to ending hunger.
It was very clear to me that the Oregon Food Bank is doing impactful work. So both the people and the impactful work are what really caught my attention, and I could think of no better time to join this organization. As a community, we’re going to continue to feel the impacts of the ongoing crises we’re all very familiar with: COVID-19, racial injustice, the results of climate change. We’re going to feel the effects for years to come. And, combined, these crises have really shone a spotlight on all the historical disparities that continue to play out today: the disproportionate challenges that our Black and Indigenous communities, other communities of color, immigrants, refugees and low-income families face.
The work we do at Oregon Food Bank is really at the front line of meeting people’s essential needs while also addressing the long-term, root causes of hunger. It’s honestly an honor to have the opportunity to work with Oregon Food Bank to advance this mission. And especially right now, because I think it is such a critical time where we can make a huge difference together.
OFB: What about your role and Oregon Food Bank’s future makes you most optimistic and excited?
AW: As I mentioned before, I’m really excited about the team that I get to work with. It’s very clear: this is a very talented, dedicated, values-driven set of people who are so creative. I’m just really excited to work in that environment.
Additionally, it’s not just “talk” at Oregon Food Bank. This organization walks the walk because we understand the importance and urgency of our services, our organizing work and our mission. The urgency is there; the need is there. And the organization has the infrastructure, the people, the vision to make all that happen. I feel like I’m walking into a really strong group, and I look forward to being a member of the team. Again, it’s a big honor to have been granted the opportunity.
OFB: You mentioned OFB’s vision. What do you think it will take to achieve it?
AW: Oregon Food Bank’s 10-year vision was another big draw for me. I love that it’s about both meeting people’s day-to-day needs to access healthy food, and also working in the long term to address the systems and policies in place that caused hunger in the first place. I love that systemic approach because people need to eat — they need to survive day to day. But we can do both right at the same time.
I’m really excited about building community power and using that to eliminate the root causes of hunger. There is just endless potential to be a force for the common good and make a long-term, meaningful impact in people’s lives. I was reading through some of OFB’s strategic direction documents which shared, per 2019 counts, that more than a million people either experienced hunger or volunteered at a food assistance program in Oregon and Southwest Washington. If we’re able to unite and organize even just a sliver of that one million around common goals, there’s really no end to what we can achieve together. So that’s what I’m most excited about: bringing together both the short-term needs and the long-term changes we can make together.
Thank you for joining the OFB team, Andrea! We are so excited to have you aboard and look forward to all of the amazing progress we will make together in our mission to end hunger and its root causes.