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Hunger and Humanity: Why Voting and Political Education are So Important

Public policy — the laws and rules our governments make for us — impact why so many of us need to use food banks and are excluded from essential services and programs. At Oregon Food Bank, we cannot achieve our mission to end hunger and its root causes without working to create a government that is accountable to all of us — we call this inclusive democracy.

For too long, inequity has been an intentional feature of how our society is structured. We must work with people most impacted by hunger to change society and the structures that shape it, especially the laws and policies that leave far too many of us out. Those most affected by systemic inequities should be at the center of decision-making about how to change it.

But what does this mean? For instance, when people can’t vote, don’t understand how and why certain laws are made or don’t have the time and resources to influence the government, then that government is not accountable to all of us. And we know that when only a select few are able to make or break our laws, it’s those of us who already don’t have enough power in our democracy, because of poverty, racism, sexism and homophobia who will not see positive change. Our state has the resources to make a real difference in people’s lives, and we need an effective, representative government to ensure an equitable future where our communities do not experience hunger.

People across rural, urban and suburban communities support policies that would improve housing, higher wages, better support for families like increased SNAP, affordable childcare and so much more. Our government can and should fund programs that invest in what we need to end hunger for good.

In Oregon, and across the country, we have seen that jeopardizing walkouts or outright violence can threaten our well-being. The systemic inequities that drive hunger and poverty are the same inequities that keep voters from the polls and silence us in the halls of power — and we need meaningful change to ensure more inclusive, healthy decision-making processes for our communities.

Inclusive Democracy + Hunger in Oregon

From the 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to significant anti-democratic action here in Salem, there have been steady reminders to all of us in recent years that we must work actively to protect and improve our democratic institutions.

Without a democracy that works for all of us, more people face hunger and poverty. It’s understandable to have policy differences. But legislators — like the Senate Republicans who walked out in May 2023 — who choose to walk away due to those expected differences are walking away from their responsibility to Oregon families. They are leaving families to make impossible choices between putting food on the table and paying their bills.

We know Oregon is stronger when we welcome and celebrate the diversity of our communities. And together, we’re building an Oregon where all of our neighbors can live with dignity and respect — regardless of citizenship status, country of origin, how we worship, or our race, sexual orientation or gender identity.


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