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Hunger on the ballot: What Tobias Read 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

By managing a number of state agencies that provide critical safety-net assistance to Oregonians in need, the Governor has an essential role in ensuring that communities have access to nutritious, culturally-appropriate food. This extends beyond SNAP, but includes leveraging other programs and agencies where Oregonians in need interact with the State. For example, Oregon has learned how to better deliver nutrition services to families with school age children by working with school districts and education providers to address increased need during the pandemic. Finally, Governors have enormous convening authority that can be used to establish prioritization and coordination between state and local governments. The next Governor should make it clear that no Oregonian should lack access to healthy food, and work to rally the State around addressing this goal, and executing against it.

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

Decades of systemic racism and government neglect have placed many Black, Indigenous and People of Color at increased risk of poverty and food security. We must broadly address the underlying economic disparity that exists in these communities in order to address this gap. This means closing education gaps, providing access to job training and apprenticeships, increasing access to post-secondary education. This means increasing wealth creation opportunities by expanding the EITC, IDAs, and college and retirement savings account participation. And it requires that we work with both the public and private sectors to support BIPOC and women owned small businesses. On a specific level related to food insecurity, this means supporting community based organizations who are doing the work on the ground to address immediate needs, and getting creative to address the food deserts that impact many communities of color, particularly those living in rural areas of the state. Finally, the Governor should leverage the support of our federal delegation to ensure that Oregonians are benefiting from federal expenditures, and that the state has the flexibility it needs to get support into these historically marginalized communities.

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

We can best support those who grow, process and serve our food by ensuring they receive wages sufficient to support a family. This also means ensuring that these workers are protected against wage theft and other forms of on the job mistreatment. We should also make sure that essential workers can access unemployment, workers compensation, and other supports when they are unable to work. Finally, many of these workers are also unable to access affordable, quality housing options. We have a broader need to address our housing crisis that impacts many working Oreognians, while we also must find ways to support very specific gaps in farmworker housing shortages.

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

A persons ability to reach their full potential should not be tied to one’s zip code. For too long, we have left many talented, hardworking Oregonians on the sidelines. This has been particularly acute in rural communities and among communities of color in urban areas. Job creation targeted specifically at closing these gaps is critical, but won’t occur unless we target programs specifically at these communities. Furthermore, we need to develop programs that address the outcomes of poverty and close hunger needs by working with those marginalized communities to develop programs that reflect the specific and unique needs of those communities. The state must avoid one size fits all approaches, and provide services that recognize that things don’t look the same in Burns, as Beaverton, or as Brookings.

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, the Governor, as chief executive of the state, has a responsibility to remove these barriers. Oregon has a real opportunity in this regard.
  2. Oregon has invested tremendously in our food, beverage and travel and hospitality sectors. Oregonians love their locally produced food and beverages. We should be doing more to create pathways for BIPOC families to draw upon their own talent, expertise, and cultures to grow food that can contribute to our state’s effort to market Oregon grown food. We should be looking to build on our investments in OSU agricultural extension programs to support this effort, provide access to affordable small business lending programs, and support technical assistance programs aimed at BIPOC farmers and producers. And working with TravelOregon and local tourism efforts to market an inclusive Oregon that includes BIPOC farmers and food producers.
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

Oregon has a homelessness crisis. Nearly 16,000 people are experiencing homelessness every day in Oregon. And despite state and local governments spending hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years, the crisis has only gotten worse. What we’re doing isn’t working. As Governor, I will respond with the urgency and much needed accountability that has been missing from this crisis.

While getting people safely off the streets is an immediate priority, we must address the long-term causes of homelessness. Homelessness disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous and other people of color, women fleeing domestic violence, veterans, LGBTQIA2S+ youth, and those with chronic health conditions. One of the key drivers is Oregon’s severe shortage of affordable housing, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic and its long-term economic consequences. We know what it takes to get in front of this crisis: preventing evictions for those who are at risk of homelessness, housing those who are currently homeless, and delivering the health services - especially mental and addiction services - to those who need it.

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

I’m dedicated to measuring the success of our state based on the wellbeing of children and families. And we can do much, much better. I’m the only candidate for Governor who has released a comprehensive Child Care platform. I’m proposing steps aimed at lowering childcare and early learning costs, increasing compensation and training to recruit and retain high quality educators, creating more childcare slots, and treating childcare like the crucial economic support that it is. After all, not only do our kids and families benefit from high-quality, affordable childcare, but our economic recovery depends on it.

Families across Oregon are struggling to find and afford childcare. The costs of quality childcare are high relative to income: single parents earning Oregon’s median income are paying over 50% of their income for infant care and 40% for preschoolers. For many, childcare is hard to find: 72% of communities in Oregon are classified as “childcare deserts,” meaning there are not enough childcare slots for the number of kids who need them. The childcare workforce is under-compensated leading to high turnover and not enough professionals available to provide care. And disruptions to the childcare industry stemming from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have only made an already difficult situation worse with 94,000 Oregonians unable to go back to work due to a lack of stable, affordable childcare. With parents making up around 30% of our workforce, long term economic recovery is tied to our commitment to improving this sector. I’m committed to addressing these gaps, and I encourage you to visit my detailed plan.

Hear from each candidate

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

* Questions were sent to candidates who will appear on the primary ballot. We will be sending questions to other independent candidates who qualify for the ballot in the November general election and provide their full answers at that time.

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