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Fostering Equity: Centering Black, Indigenous and all People of Color to End Hunger

Oregon Food Bank is dedicated to ending hunger and its root causes. We know that the root causes of hunger are systemic injustices — including the connections between racism, classism, sexism, settler colonialism and more — which continue the conditions that sustain hunger and poverty. Understanding this, we commit to center those who most disproportionately experience hunger across our service area — Black, Indigenous and all People of Color, immigrants and refugees, gender expansive folks (including Two-Spirit folks), and single mothers and caregivers — in ways that honor and value each other and our lived experiences.

The disproportionate rates of food insecurity faced by Black, Indigenous and all People of Color (BIPOC) in Oregon highlight the urgency of targeted support and the need for transformative change. Those most affected by an issue possess invaluable insights and solutions.

Disproportionate Rates of Food Insecurity in Oregon:

Hunger and poverty disproportionately impact BIPOC communities in every corner of Oregon and Southwest Washington. According to data from the Oregon Center for Public Policy, Black and Latine households in Oregon are twice as likely to experience poverty as White households. These disparities are also reflected in food insecurity rates. In Oregon, over 22 percent of Latine households and 21 percent of Black households experienced food insecurity in 2018, compared to 9.9 percent of White households. And recent reporting shows that the effects of COVID-19 continue to fall hardest on Black communities here in Oregon, with only 39 percent of Black Oregonians reporting that they had enough to eat the previous week (Willamette Week).

Understanding Systemic Racism as a Driver of Poverty:

These disparities are not accidental. They are the result of systemic racism and historical injustices that create barriers to education, employment and healthcare for BIPOC communities.

Since the inception of Oregon’s statehood (which relied on the stealth of Indigenous lands), the Oregon constitution barred Black families from owning a home, voting or accessing the legal system. Redlining and other discriminatory housing practices have made it more challenging for BIPOC individuals to access safe and affordable housing, leading to higher rates of homelessness and housing insecurity.

Similarly, the legacy of colonialism and forced assimilation has disrupted traditional Indigenous food systems, making it more challenging for Indigenous communities to access culturally important foods. Indigenous communities experience continued disproportionate rates of hunger and poverty due to a long history of genocide and colonialism operationalized through harmful federal policies.

Today, BIPOC communities face disproportionate hunger and poverty in every corner of the state.

Intersectionality — More than the Sum of its Parts:

Intersectionality was first practiced by Black queer feminists, such as Barbara Smith and those of the Combahee River Collective. This Boston-based organization argued that neither the Feminist nor Civil Rights movements addressed the needs of Black women — specifically Black lesbian women. Intersectionality is described as a “lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other,” by Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw who created the term “intersectionality” in 1989. She says, “We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts.”

Using this framework, we recognize that “BIPOC” does not encompass just one identity or story. An Indigenous woman’s relationship to poverty is going to be radically different than a Black man’s, for example. And while BIPOC populations experience hunger and poverty across the board at higher rates, we must recognize the ways that gender, class, sexuality, immigration status and other marginalized identities intersect with race to shape different experiences and needs. This is why it’s critical we approach our work with an equitable lens to listen to our communities, prioritize their needs, and provide culturally-specific food assistance and advocacy.

Advocacy for Systemic Change in Oregon:

Oregon Food Bank actively engages in advocacy efforts to address the root causes of hunger. By prioritizing the needs of BIPOC communities, Oregon Food Bank advocates for equity-driven policies. Addressing systems rooted in oppression requires dismantling anti-Blackness, settler colonialism and practices and policies that perpetuate White supremacy. We work collaboratively to dismantle harmful systems, including with PCUN, CAPACES Leadership Institute, APANO, NAYA, NARA, IRCO, Latino Network, Mudbone Grown and others. Partnering with these organizations, Oregon Food Bank seeks to drive systemic change and support a thriving Oregon.

Individuals who hold an identity of Oregon Food Bank’s equity constituencies contribute valuable leadership to ending hunger and its root causes while also experiencing disproportionately higher rates of food insecurity and discrimination. Through following the leadership of BIPOC communities, Oregon Food Bank taps into a wellspring of knowledge, shaping innovative and effective strategies to end hunger and its root causes.


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