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Community Leadership: Central Oregonians need Food for All Oregonians

Poet and community organizer from Central Oregon, Joanne Mina, has always been one to advocate for underrepresented communities around her. She has led organizing efforts across Oregon to support immigrants, LGBTQ2S+ and women’s rights. She is particularly passionate about SB 610 Food for All Oregonians because she sees the need for greater food access in rural communities of Oregon.

As of 2021, the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance reports that 13.6% of Central Oregonians will experience food insecurity – that’s 35,075 people. However, only 43% of them qualify for federal assistance (SNAP, WIC, or other funds). That means nearly 20,000 people experiencing hunger are left out of receiving federal assistance. Advocates in Central Oregon know that number will only increase if we do not enact change now.

For Joanne, the fight for food justice is personal – she understands what many families are going through today. “Moving to Oregon was a learning curve,” she says. “Being a single mother of two toddlers on a fixed income in rural Oregon and not knowing how to access our public safety nets meant that my children had very humble and repetitive meals in their early years.” In the United States, food insecurity rates are highest for single-mother households and households with incomes below the poverty line. In Oregon, nearly 27.5% of single mothers were food insecure in 2021.

“I had to make choices on what to prioritize, and what basic needs moved to the category of ‘luxury’,” Joanne recalls.

For non-English-speaking Oregonians, the barriers to receiving food assistance are even higher. “Immigrant Indigenous communities in Central Oregon like the Purépecha community have to rely on information in Spanish, which they do not speak, to access any support. This creates additional barriers for people. Our food banks are not equipped to support this community,” Joanne said.

Many Oregonians do not have access to the foods they need and food insecurity needs to be addressed sooner than later. For Oregon's immigrant, refugee and COFA community members, that time cannot wait, which is why people across Oregon are advocating for SB 610. SB 610 will extend SNAP benefits to those currently excluded due to immigration status, and also includes community navigators that will provide language- and culture-responsive support through the process.

Culture, tradition and love are shared and passed on from one generation to another via food. Our ancestors had a relationship with food that was symbiotic, reciprocal and spiritual, but with the clash of cultures, food insecurity became a weapon to erase culture and peoples altogether. The foods I grew up with are a source of reconnection with love, music, family and celebration. For many, food is a direct line of connection with our history, ancestors and our way of life. We know that food is fuel and key to maintaining good health, however, many Oregonians do not have access to fruits and vegetables. I hope all legislators support making food accessible to all low-income Oregonians regardless of their country of origin.

Joanne Mina

Take a stand for Food for All Oregonians and food justice in Oregon by contacting your legislator today to say YES on SB 610

Food justice is guaranteeing that everyone has nutritious and cultural foods available to them to nourish their present and future. - Joanne Mina

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