Driven by the ongoing economic fallout of COVID-19, the sunsetting of pandemic safety nets and the rising cost of food and housing, we are in an ongoing hunger crisis. Last year, we saw 1.9 million visits to food assistance sites through the Oregon Food Bank Network — a 14 percent increase from the previous year. Legislative action is more important than ever as we work to meet evolving needs and address hunger at its roots. Oregon’s legislative session begins February 5, 2024, and runs up to five weeks.
Our advocacy efforts are focused on ensuring food is available to all who need it. Food is essential to our daily lives — and our freedom, our health, our ability to thrive all depend on access to food that is both nourishing and familiar.
Yet we know we can’t truly end hunger for good through food alone; we have to take action to prevent hunger from happening in the first place. That means addressing the policies and systems that drive hunger and poverty in our communities. We also know that due to systemic injustices, many people experience hunger at disproportionately high rates, including renters; Black, Indigenous and all People of Color; immigrants and refugees; trans and gender expansive individuals; and single mothers and caregivers.
There’s no one better to name solutions to hunger than those of us who have experienced it first-hand — and the Oregon Food Bank Policy Leadership Council is made up entirely of community leaders with lived expertise in hunger from across our great state. With the Council’s leadership, we’re shortening the distance between people who experience food insecurity and the decisions that affect us. Our Policy Leadership Council has endorsed a host of anti-hunger policy and investment priorities for the 2024 legislative session.
Strengthen Food Assistance for Oregonians
Reduce Summer Hunger for Kids
Securing Oregon's participation in Summer EBT will ensure essential food access for 294,000 Oregon kids by providing additional money for families during the summer break. In a pilot program, Oregon's participation reduced child hunger by one-third in the summer for participating families. Read more in Oregon Capital Chronicle: State signs up for summer food program for kids but needs Legislature to commit funds.
- Support Oregon’s Emergency Food Network
Fund critical food purchases. Requests for food are back at peak-pandemic levels. Oregon Food Bank is requesting a budget allocation that will help meet this need through June 2025.
Back the Josephine County Food Bank budget request. These funds will allow Josephine County Food Bank to purchase their current property and develop a commercial kitchen.
Establish a Restaurant/Meals Program. For Oregonians who face challenges preparing meals, such as Oregonians who lack permanent housing and seniors, this program would expand food accessibility.
Maximize the Double-Up Food Bucks Program. Increase access to fruits and vegetables at farmer’s markets, CSAs and grocery stores by providing funding which Oregon can use to leverage additional federal funding for the program.
- Help kids at daycare access food. Simplify the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) for daycare providers to help ensure the program is accessible across the state.
Address the Root Causes of Hunger
- Housing for All
Everyone deserves a safe place to call home. Yet far too many Oregonians still make the impossible choice between rent and food. Renters are about four times as likely to struggle to afford food as homeowners. We envision an Oregon where all people and families can live in communities and homes that create the conditions for well-being, sustainability and stability.
Keep Oregonians housed with emergency rent assistance. Rent continues to be unaffordable for so many Oregonians.
Maintain homeless shelter operations that have been previously funded by the state or have exhausted pandemic-era funding.
Support the Oregon Individual Development Account (IDA) Initiative which increases financial stability and builds savings for households.
Preserve existing affordable housing, including manufactured housing and regulated properties with expiring affordability restrictions.
Re-Imagining Community Safety
To truly end hunger for good, we have to address the systems that drive hunger and poverty in our communities. Studies show that 90 percent of people returning from incarceration experience food insecurity. Among households with a formerly incarcerated member, 70 percent struggle to meet essential needs like food and housing. We deserve community solutions to combat violence, dependence on substances, poverty and houselessness.
- Strengthen Measure 110 by investing in proven strategies like stable housing and trauma-informed treatment to prevent addiction and improve public safety. We should not go back to a failed War on Drugs designed to incarcerate Black and Brown communities. Over 50 years of evidence shows that incarcerating or mandating court programs for drug possession doesn't work. Let's build on effective public health strategies instead of returning to a flawed system. Learn more about the connection between food justice and criminal justice at the link here.
Support the Restorative Justice Grant Program which helps prevent people from being incarcerated again by pursuing approaches to accountability led by victims and survivors.
Supporting Family and Community Stability
Every child deserves a safe place to be while their caregivers are at work. Every worker deserves the dignity of wages that help everyone meet basic standards of living where no one is forced to choose between food and other necessities.
Increase access to Employment Related Daycare (ERDC). Far too many parents face long waitlists for daycare. Investments in ERDC are critical to connecting more families to safe, affordable daycare.
Maintain funding for the Oregon Worker Relief (OWR) Fund to support workers excluded from other types of assistance.
Healthy People, Healthy Environment
Oregonians experiencing food insecurity are also often frontline communities, meaning they experience the “first and worst” consequences of climate disasters. While Oregon Food Bank helps distribute emergency food and water across the state during disasters, making sure communities are prepared beforehand can make a world of difference when it comes to the health and economic impacts of disasters.
- Support the Healthy Homes Program, which keeps families healthy and safe in the face of extreme weather, reduces medical costs and energy bills, and contributes to greater housing security for Oregonians most vulnerable to these disasters.
Legislative action is more important than ever as we work to meet the increasing need for food assistance and address hunger at its roots. We hope you'll get involved in whatever way is most meaningful to you!