At the Afghan Support Network, we're on the front lines of our community witnessing the urgent need for accessible food. That's why partnering with Oregon Food Bank is absolutely vital. They have been pivotal in helping us provide the resources that enable us to ensure the long-term success of our community.
In 2021, more than 6 million Afghans were forcibly displaced from their homes and nearly 800+ Afghans resettled in Oregon. It was then that community advocate, Darwaish Zakhil co-founded the Afghan Support Network.
“I have been involved with helping my community navigate the system since 2017. After the collapse of the Republic of Afghanistan in August of 2021, a huge population of Afghans came to Oregon. In order to meet the needs of the new Afghan arrivals, some of my friends and I came together and said ‘we need to do something about this quickly because the need is high.’”
After many conversations with the Afghan community in the Portland metro area, Darwaish, Yahya, Ajmal and Zubair Kohestani founded the Afghan Support Network to ensure that new community members arriving in Oregon have the long-term support they need to survive. Their mission is to empower Afghans in the Portland Metro through advocacy, services, and resources. The Afghan Support Network provides wrap-around support for Afghans in need and one aspect of their work is food distribution.
“There are Afghans here in Oregon who do not have access to food stamps and I get many calls about our monthly food box donations with people saying that they need that support. Our staff and I get daily requests for more and more food boxes. When someone asks you for food, you know that they are struggling. Culturally, it is hard to ask for help and it can feel embarrassing for some. This is why Food for All Oregonians is a key to the success of Afghans in Oregon. Food is a human right and a need. Every single person on the planet needs to have access to food. In Oregon, we have a chance and the power to make that change happen...we know that many people with different immigration statuses are ineligible to apply for SNAP or ‘food stamps.’ SB 610 is a critical and crucial step that needs to be passed so all Oregonians will have access to food."
Currently, 62,000 Oregonians are excluded from SNAP assistance based on immigration status alone. These communities include are Lawful Permanent Residents under the 5-year bar, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients (often referred to as DACA), Compact of Free Association community members (COFA), people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Undocumented immigrants and anyone in the process of seeking asylum.
There are Afghans here in Oregon who do not have access to food stamps and I get many calls about our monthly food box donations with people saying that they need that support. Our staff and I get daily requests for more and more food boxes. When someone asks you for food, you know that they are struggling. Culturally, it is hard to ask for help and it can feel embarrassing for some. This is why Food for All Oregonians is a key to the success of Afghans in Oregon. Food is a human right and a need.
“We have people in our community who are business owners and pay taxes and we know that some of these folks are unable to apply for food assistance services. It creates confusion and pits communities against each other. I know folks personally who served as U.S. and Western allies during the war who are here in the U.S. now, and they are not eligible for food stamps and cannot access nutritious foods. That tells us that we are failing our immigrant and refugee allies who sacrificed so much for the U.S. They dedicated their lives and their time to support the U.S. and deserve to be eligible for these resources.”
If we continue to stand by and let this be a reality for Oregonians, our communities and families will continue to struggle. But we can change that.
"It’s an injustice to know that people in Oregon do not have access to SNAP and to not do something about it.”
Take a stand for Food for All Oregonians and food justice in Oregon by contacting your legislator today to say YES on SB 610