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COVID-19 Response Team Brings Aid to Black Oregonians

Mudbone Grown co-farm managers Art Shaver and Shantae Johnson are heading an effort to provide relief for Black Oregonians during the pandemic. (Mudbone Grown)
Mudbone Grown co-farm managers Art Shaver and Shantae Johnson are heading an effort to provide relief for Black Oregonians during the pandemic. (Mudbone Grown)
July 3, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. - As the COVID-19 pandemic grinds on, some organizations are leading efforts to provide relief to Black Oregon families.

Shantae Johnson is a farmer and community health worker who co-manages Mudbone Grown, a Black-owned farm that hosts programs for community members. The farm is heading the Black COVID-19 Response Team, providing food through a community-supported agriculture model to 50 Black families.

She says food insecurity was an issue for many of these households before COVID-19.

"The pandemic really just highlighted the inequalities that people are currently experiencing," says Johnson, "and have experienced for many generations."

Mudbone Grown is partnering with the Multnomah County Health Department's "Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health" program and the organization Beyond Black. With funding from Oregon Food Bank, the response team also is providing families with household items.

In order to eliminate food insecurity, Johnson says, the social determinants of health must be addressed - including race.

"There's no one singular issue," says Johnson. "It's all intersected with one another. And so, the more we look at trying to address the root cause, I think, the better off we'll be."

Johnson adds that it's important to support Black farmers with access to resources and infrastructure. And, most importantly, folks need to listen to Black community members.

"Trust Black leadership and don't try to co-opt things, but come from a place of understanding," says Johnson. "And then, match that support with funding."

The Black COVID-19 Response Team program is in its second of eight weeks.

Disclosure: Oregon Food Bank contributes to our fund for reporting on Community Issues and Volunteering, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Poverty Issues, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR