From the ongoing pandemic to worsening wildfire seasons, to national momentum in advancing racial justice, this has been a year of challenges and opportunities — and Oregon Food Bank continues to adapt and innovate in pursuit of our vision of resilient communities that never go hungry. Many of our programs and partnerships have evolved to better meet today’s extraordinary needs, while also building values-based networks to address hunger’s root causes.
Recognizing the pandemic’s disproportionate impact, we’re providing targeted funding and support to partners working in communities that have long faced hunger and poverty — communities of color, immigrants and refugees, single mothers and caregivers, and trans and gender non-conforming communities. Whether through direct assistance to organizations led by and serving these communities, or dedicated support for the Oregon Worker Relief Fund, our shared efforts have assisted thousands of families who too often fall through outdated and inadequate social safety nets.
Just one example: our Ambassador program has expanded from a sole focus on garden-based programming to more holistic initiatives that address food insecurity. In the past year alone, this effort has grown to encompass leadership development, organizing and civic engagement in the Congolese, East African, Karen, Palauan and Slavic communities. And many Ambassadors are now forming their own nonprofit organizations with formalized programming, from urban farming education to community-led farmers markets.
Ner Moo is an Oregon Food Bank Ambassador who works with fellow members of the Karen community — an ethnic group primarily located near the Thailand-Myanmar border. Like so many of his neighbors, Ner Moo’s family are refugees who fled ethnic violence in their home countries.
Ner Moo’s experiences growing up in a refugee camp and going through re-settlement in the United States led to a passion for community gardening and farming. He’s seen first-hand the positive impact these efforts can bring to a vulnerable community — leading a group that grow white eggplants, basil, water spinach, and other culturally-relevant produce and herbs that were sourced from their home countries with Oregon Food Bank’s support. Each month, their harvest forms the foundation of an incredible Free Food Market that serves the Karen community and beyond.
After several years in our community gardens, Ner Moo and his neighbors recently acquired a significant plot of land in Boring, OR, with support from our friends at Outgrowing Hunger. The expansion will add capacity to their free food distribution efforts, reaching even more families throughout the area.
Community-led efforts like these are supported by a transformation of Oregon Food Bank’s approach to philanthropy. We know our drive toward resilient, hunger-free communities is bigger than any one organization or initiative — and that the most effective solutions come from impacted communities. We hope you’ll join us in strengthening regional food systems by supporting Ner Moo and other local organizations and leaders at the forefront of the anti-hunger movement.