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Ties Between Systemic Racism, Hunger on Ballot as Oregonians Vote

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022   

Oregon's primary election is today, and one of the issues affecting voters is systemic racism.

Black, Indigenous and people of color suffer from higher rates of poverty and food insecurity than white Oregonians.

Shantae Johnson, farmer and program director of Mudbone Grown, a Black-owned farm in Portland hosting programs for community members, said inequities for Black and Indigenous people in Oregon go back to the state's founding, when land was taken from native people.

"We all know that land builds generational wealth," Johnson pointed out. "And so when we talk about where are all the Black farmers and BIPOC farmers that own land in the state, we can really look to the policies and systematic practices of exclusion as ways that kept BIPOC farmers out."

According to Feed'em Freedom Foundation, which Johnson heads, Black, Indigenous and people of color make up 25% of Oregon's population but only 6% of its agricultural producers.

At the height of the pandemic, one in five Oregonians faced food insecurity, but the difficulty was not equitable. Black Oregonians, for instance, are six times more likely to face food insecurity.

Johnson said an agricultural network of Black, Indigenous and people of color were integral in feeding communities during the pandemic through mutual aid, and there should be efforts to support them.

"That starts with upfront investments," Johnson contended. "It also starts with looking at budgets when it comes to agriculture and green spaces in the city and also in our rural spaces and making those upfront investments."

Johnson serves on the board of directors for Oregon Food Bank, which surveyed candidates for governor running in today's primary about food insecurity. Their responses are posted on Oregon Food Bank's website. One of the questions asked about the link between systemic racism and hunger.

Johnson stressed Oregonians have an important decision to make in choosing the next governor.

"Especially when it comes to hunger-related issues and addressing the root causes like systematic racism for years to come," Johnson outlined. "So whether you live in, like, a rural community, urban or suburban place in Oregon, it's fair to say that hunger is on the ballot this spring and fall."

Drop sites for ballots will be open until 8 p.m. today.

Disclosure: Oregon Food Bank contributes to our fund for reporting on Hunger/Food/Nutrition Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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