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Hunger on the ballot: What Tina Kotek stands for

The priorities of our elected officials can make a major difference in the day-to-day lives of Oregon families and communities. Below they answer our questions and share their vision to end hunger and its root causes.

The Governor's responsibility to ensuring food access

Question 1

More than a million Oregonians, from every single county in the state, accessed food assistance through the Oregon Food Bank Network in 2021. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 702,000 Oregonians have participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Access Program (SNAP, sometimes referred to as “food stamps”). What are the responsibilities of the Governor to ensure that our communities have consistent access to nutritious, culturally-appropriate food?

Answer

I began my career in public service working at Oregon Food Bank more than twenty years ago. It was my job to travel around the state and listen to Oregonians about why they needed to access emergency food. It wasn’t just about food. It was about low wages, the cost of housing, and the burden of medical debt. These stories have been my guiding light ever since.

We need to recognize the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable Oregonians. We need to address the immediate need for food, which means committing to increased access to programs like SNAP, WIC and the Child and Adult Care Food Program and supporting the statewide network of emergency food pantries. It also means a commitment to address barriers that Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities face in accessing these programs due to systemic racism.

As Governor, I’ll use the bully pulpit to raise awareness and address root causes of hunger and poverty. I’ll make sure Oregon utilizes the maximum flexibility allowed to increase participation in federally-funded nutrition programs. I’ll work to allocate more resources to communities in need and partner with community-based organizations to ensure implementation of these resources are achieving our goals.

Systemic racism and hunger

Question 2

Community members who are Black, Indigenous or People of Color face significantly higher rates of poverty and food insecurity than White Oregonians.

  1. What role, if any, do you believe systemic racism plays in causing hunger?

  2. What policies and programs would you support to reduce poverty and food insecurity in these communities?

Answer

  1. Systemic racism is at the root of so many challenges in our country, including hunger and poverty. Racial justice must be front and center in our response to these issues because that’s how we make sure that all communities have an opportunity to thrive.
  2. It is critical that we keep a laser focus on equitable access to affordable and stable housing, fair wages and working conditions, and culturally competent health care (including mental health and addiction services, as well as strong support services for children and families).

    As House Speaker, I worked to improve economic security for all Oregonians, such as raising the minimum wage, ensuring paid sick leave and paid family leave to support working families, and protecting renters by cracking down on rent gouging and preventing evictions during the COVID-19 crisis.

    As Governor, I will continue my focus on economic security, particularly in the area of affordable housing and homelessness. I will also support the work of the Racial Justice Council to improve economic opportunity for BIPOC Oregonians and address systemic inequities related to small business development, workforce training, and home ownership.

Essential food workers and food insecurity

Question 3

From the fields to the grocery store, our food industry is anchored by essential workers who are immigrants. Yet the workers who keep food on our tables are among the lowest paid in Oregon. As governor, what would you do to ensure that the people who grow, process and serve our food do not experience food insecurity themselves?

Answer

Every Oregonian deserves a safe working environment with fair wages and good benefits. That’s why, as House Speaker, I made sure we got legislation over the finish line to raise the minimum wage and provide paid sick leave for workers - because that’s how we move the needle on economic security for our lowest paid essential workers.

During the early months of the pandemic, I supported state funding for the Oregon Worker Relief Fund so essential workers had access to financial assistance when they lost their jobs. I also supported the legislature’s recent work to set a path to overtime pay for farm workers.

As Governor, I will continue to stand with essential workers to ensure they have the resources and support they need to have food security. That means advocating for fair wages, investing in workforce development so all workers have the opportunity to move up the ladder, and investing in community-led and community-based programs so Oregonians can access help in familiar and comfortable environments.

Food insecurity in rural, urban and suburban communities

Question 4

From Ontario, to Portland, to Tillamook, rates of poverty and food insecurity are relatively similar. As governor, how would you design solutions to poverty and hunger across rural, urban and suburban communities?

Answer

From my days working at Oregon Food Bank to serving in the legislature, I have always been focused on making sure every Oregonian has a path to prosperity.

Around the state, poverty might look different but it exists in every community. It’s this reality that motivated me to pass some really big legislation for Oregonians that addresses some of the root causes of poverty: increasing the minimum wage, expanding paid sick leave to more workers, protecting Oregonians from rent gouging, and expanding access to affordable health care for all Oregonians.

As Governor, I will continue to do the hard work to champion solutions that address our short-term and long-term goals to reduce poverty. I will make sure that state government is working to get resources and support out the door to every Oregonian who needs it, because bureaucracy and red tape is no excuse when Oregonians are struggling. And I will work alongside our diverse, community-based organizations to ensure that all communities, especially our BIPOC and low-income communities, are at the table to help design and implement the programs and resources that we create.

Barriers to BIPOC farming

Question 5

Of the state’s 67,595 farm producers, only 64 were Black in 2017. Black, Indigenous and People of Color have long experienced barriers in access to land, infrastructure and markets to support farming — negatively impacting both food production and economic development in communities.

  1. Does the governor have any responsibilities to remove barriers to farming for Oregonians who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color?

  2. If yes, what policies and programs would you support?

Answer

  1. Yes, because Oregon benefits when every Oregon industry or economic sector - both the employers and the employees - reflects the diversity of our state.

  2. As Governor, I would start with analyzing how current state programs support access and/or impose barriers to BIPOC participation in farming and food production/processing. With this information in hand, I would work with ODA, OSU Extension, and others to improve opportunities for participation, including access to financing for land acquisition and business start up. I would look to partnerships with organizations like Mudbone Farm and the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition to make sure that everyone has what they need to succeed and grow the next generation of farmers.

Affordable housing

Question 6

Oregon faces a crisis of affordable housing. People who request food assistance consistently cite the cost of housing as a primary reason for seeking help — and renters are more than six times more likely to experience hunger than homeowners. As governor, what will you do to move us toward an Oregon in which everyone has safe, affordable and healthy housing?

Answer

We have an unacceptable humanitarian emergency on our sidewalks and in our neighborhoods. We need to bring more urgency to helping people experiencing homelessess get into shelters and transitional housing so they can get stable and into permanent housing. This includes improving access to mental health and addiction services.

As Governor, I’ll lead a comprehensive approach to tackling our housing and homelessness crisis, focusing on five priorities:

  1. End unsheltered homelessness for veterans, families with children, unaccompanied young adults, and people 65 years and older by 2025, and continue strengthening pathways to permanent housing for all Oregonians experiencing homelessness.
  2. Build enough housing to meet the need for people currently experiencing homelessness, address current shortage of housing, and keep pace with future affordable housing demand by 2033.
  3. Advance racial equity by reducing the racial homeownership gap by 20% by 2027.
  4. Keep people housed who are currently on the brink of homelessness.
  5. Encourage intergovernmental and private sector partnerships to have more effective and efficient responses to solving this crisis.

If we’re going to solve Oregon’s housing crisis, we need near-term and long-term strategies. As Governor, I’ll move Oregon forward on meeting both the immediate challenges and tackling the root causes of this crisis.

Caregivers and food insecurity

Question 7

The work of caring for one another is disproportionately shouldered by women. While the labor of caring for children, the elderly and people with disabilities is often unpaid, professions of childcare and home healthcare are among the lowest paid in Oregon. Single mothers and caregivers are over three times more likely to experience hunger than the general population. As governor, what will you do to ensure that the people providing care in our communities do not experience food insecurity?

Answer

Care workers are essential workers who deserve and need better compensation, job security, and professional development opportunities. Our children, family members, and most vulnerable neighbors need Oregon to do a better job of supporting care workers. As House Speaker, I always supported increased reimbursement rates that would be directed to increasing the wages and benefits of care workers. As Governor, I will continue to do this and will explore innovative ways to stabilize and enhance this critical workforce.

Hear from each candidate

Read everything the candidates had to say on anti-hunger policies by clicking on the links below.

We sent questions to all the candidates who will appear on the November ballot, both by phone and email. All replies received by the deadline are included below. Two candidates below did not respond to the questionnaire by the deadline. No inference about the candidate’s positions should be drawn from the lack of a response.

Christine Drazen

Did not respond.

Betsy Johnson

Did not respond.

Tina Kotek

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