Here at Oregon Food Bank we know that we cannot end hunger solely by giving food to our neighbors. We must take action to prevent food insecurity from happening in the first place — by focusing our resources to address the challenges that drive hunger and poverty in our communities. Fortunately, we’re not alone in the fight for food justice. We have incredible partners like Adelante Mujeres who are leading the fight for Food for All Oregonians this legislative session.
Partnering to end food insecurity
Adelante Mujeres is a non-profit organization based in Forest Grove that provides holistic education and empowerment opportunities to marginalized Latina women and families, to ensure full participation and active leadership in the community. Through their community programs, it’s undeniable that Adelante Mujeres is a central point of connection for the Latine community in Washington County. Adelante Mujeres means, “women rise up” in English and that is exactly what this team of fierce women are doing.
Mayra Hernandez, who coordinates Adelante Mujeres’ Produce Prescription Program, and Petrona Dominguez Francisco, Leadership & Advocacy Program coordinator, are key leaders in the Food for All Oregonians campaign — and are among the founding advocates who helped envision and craft this historic legislation. Mayra’s background in health equity and Petrona’s in advocacy create a beautiful blend of expertise that is needed to move the campaign forward.
“Adelante is involved in Food for All Oregonians not only because it's something we believe in, but because as an organization it's something that comes up in many instances. So many of our participants are food insecure, and this is something we can be a part of to make sure that people know: this is our community, our base in Washington County, and this is a solution that Latina women want and need. It's something that we believe that we can be a part of to make sure that we can let people know, this is our community, our base in Washington County, and this is what Latina women are saying,” -Petrona Dominguez Francisco, Leadership & Advocacy Program Coordinator
Both women have been involved with Adelante Mujeres since the early 2000s. Mayra was involved in the organization’s dual-language education program in 2002 to receive her GED. “I liked the way that they were supporting programs for women and wanted to be a part of it — especially the GED program because I wanted to support other women,” Mayra shared. “I was working other jobs, but then I saw that Adelante Mujeres needed help with the farmers market. I started as a volunteer and then became an employee.”
Petrona had a similar story where she was a participant in the Chicas program, a comprehensive and proactive development program that empowers Latina youth from elementary to high school. When the Leadership & Advocacy Program Coordinator position opened up, It was full-circle for Petrona. “When the opportunity came up to apply for this position, I was even more interested because it was going to revolve around something that is very important to me: the topic of immigration,” Petrona mentioned. “I am someone who is a DACA recipient — and to me, it hits a lot harder when it comes to immigration and other socio-economic issues”. The lived and professional experience that the two bring is crucial in weaving together advocacy and supporting the health and well-being of our communities.
Families and food
In 2021, the Oregon Hunger Task Force reported that nearly 43% of people in Washington County experiencing food insecurity in Washington County do not qualify for federal nutrition assistance — and that nearly 35% of children in food insecure households do not qualify for federal nutrition assistance. This is something that the team at Adelante Mujeres knows all too well: with the rising cost of food at the grocery store, many families have to choose between cheaper processed foods and more expensive produce. Adelante Mujeres’ participants “need access to healthy foods. Families who use food banks or food pantries are not always getting the food they want,” Mayra brought up. As the coordinator for the produce prescription program, Mayra collaborates with the Virginia Garcia Care Center who will refer a patient who needs to make changes in their diet in order to be healthier. The produce prescription program is great for the people involved, but it isn’t enough. Mayra points out that many participants are ineligible for SNAP because of immigration status and have to use food pantries to receive food. However, food pantries do not always have culturally responsive foods available to customers. Mayra and Petrona are big advocates for culturally responsive foods, because they both know what it’s like to not have access to the foods that remind you of home.
“I was four years old when I moved to Oregon. I was completely disconnected from my culture in many ways — even though my family didn't recognize it at the time. They wanted me to assimilate to the community that I was in…Up until now, in my adult life, is actually where I'm learning about my own culture, my own food, and what we make. There's a lot of ingredients that unfortunately don't exist here, and we probably won't be able to find it because it's back in our motherland,” Petrona says. “So when we think about why it's so important for people to have access to culturally responsive food, it is because it's part of our identity…It's so important for people to have access to the foods that they have in their communities, so that they can still implement these traditional foods in their families — and keep that as part of future generations to come.”
Mayra is a big advocate for eating vegetables and loves sharing her knowledge with her community. She especially enjoys that the Forest Grove farmers market that Adelante runs, is a space to connect with local farmers and growers. “We have Latine farmers who grow food that is grown in their country. And looking at this program [FFAO], farmers would benefit because people can buy more traditional and cultural foods from the farmers market and support the local economy,” Mayra observed.
Food for All Oregonians
We know that hunger is not going away until we enact real and tangible change — which is why we need people across the state to support Food for All Oregonians. Despite significant investments, state food assistance policies continue to leave more than 62,000 Oregonians behind with programs that exclude huge portions of our communities. “Por que todes comen! ¡Todes merecen comida saludable!” Mayra says.
“We know that food is medicine and that food is the most important element alongside water. By addressing food insecurity and food accessibility we can foresee a ripple effect on other social-economic issues that we see in our communities, such as mental health and climate change…That is why I am asking and encouraging everyone to support this campaign — because it’s very crucial and a stepping stone to what [other] states are already doing across the country,” Petrona says. “For Oregon to continue that path of policy wins that include immigrant communities and keep into account being equitable, being fair to people, and making sure that we are welcoming and with open arms. People should feel like they can be a part of this community and to actually be able to give input. Because at the end of the day, we are one community.”